Wednesday, October 30, 2013
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From the bottom of my heart...Thank you!
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
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It's not Father's Day, not even close to it. It's Saturday, October 12, and it's UNI's Homecoming weekend. Isabella had a sleepover here last night, celebrating her 10th birthday, which was September 19th. I know it's late, but thankfully, she's not one to be upset about this...she knew when our schedule cleared up, we'd celebrate with her friends.
Thinking of what we have in store today, makes me think of my dad. Not because I had a childhood filled with going to football games, tailgating with friends, or morning runs for Hy-vee donuts (which is what Tyler did with the girls for breakfast this morning), but because these were all things I did not get to do with my dad, but wish I did.
I remember being jealous of my friends that did tons of stuff with their dads...true daddy's girls in my eyes. Not until recent years have I learned to appreciate all the things my dad did do for me to help me be the woman I am today. And all he did for me fills my heart with pride to be his daughter.
I guess thinking about my dad goes back to a couple of weeks ago when I walked through an The Journey to Freedom, an exhibit put on by Prairie Lakes Church on human trafficking. Out of the many things that stuck out in my mind, one was that people fall into the trap of human trafficking due to a void in their life. And one type of void is the one created when a father chooses to leave his family, his children.
Which again, causes me to think of the first man in my life, my father.
My dad grew up during the Great Depression. He was smart, a hard worker, and a very handsome fellow. He's told me amazing stories about his childhood, and his early adult years...stories that I'm just now starting to appreciate. I hope he'll write these stories out someday, just so future generations of my family can know this amazing man.
He was of the generation of men that started a career at one firm, and retired from that same firm. For my dad, that firm was Arthur Andersen, LLP, a former big 5 accounting firm. He retired as a partner in 1990, which is when we made the move to Iowa so he could begin his life-long dream of farming. I've never really met anyone quite like him.
Growing up, my dad was never around. He worked all the time. He traveled a lot. But although I didn't see him much, I knew how much he loved me. I don't know how, since he didn't spend a lot of time with me. I just knew.
I spent most of my life afraid of him, because I knew how much he expected of me, of everyone around him, and there was little room for error. He was a perfectionist, and I never really felt like I could measure up. I didn't want to disappoint him. But during the weekend, when he had a little time, he would sit, offer his lap to me, and I would climb up onto it, and there was no place safer I'd rather be.
My dad taught me the strength in a firm handshake, he taught me how to look people in the eye, smile, and greet them. He taught me how to set a table properly for guests, and how to sit quietly and politely while he entertained clients and colleagues in our home. He taught me the importance of a first impression, and how to ask open-ended questions in order to keep a conversation going. He taught me a lot of things.
He taught me the power of positive affirmations...I still remember the 5 "I am" statements he would have me repeat out loud to him as often as he was around..."I am beautiful. I am smart..." As a teenager, I'd get so embarrassed, but now I know that these little things helped mold my self-image, and helped me ward off the insecurities that so often creep in for young adults.
Looking back, my dad was a man who wore many hats, with many loves. I remember one of his closets housed 5 dark suites, 7 white shirts, several ties, and 5 pair of perfectly polished black wing tips...one for each day of the work week. To say my dad is the most conservative person I know is an understatement.
During the week he was the managing partner of the Peruvian branch, meeting with high level executives, giving them advice, and ensuring their adherence to the ethical standards in place when it came to their financial statements. He was also something of a tax expert, helping them make decisions that would help their bottom line, ethically of course.
When dad talked, people listened. Even as a little girl, I knew that he was well trusted and respected. I would walk into the office he was in charge of, and his coworkers would dote on me. Not until many years later did I realize how many people's lives he impacted. He knew how to draw out the best in people. When I was older, I showed him a book that had impacted me..."How to win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. And he told me that book had been as important to him and his staff, as the Bible was to a Christ follower.
During the weekend, he would trade all of it in for a pair of worn jeans or khakis and a white t-shirt. I remember how he would quietly stand and water, row after row of vegetables he had planted. I remember him tending to the rabbits and guinea pigs he raised. I remember carting his black wingtips to the back of our property in my little pink play grocery cart, so he could meticulously polish them, as I patiently watched him or played with the bunnies and chickens next to him.
After the busyness in his week, the weekends he spent at home, I remember how STILL he was. By his actions, he showed me how to value the precious time he had where he could be still, without filling his schedule with more on the weekends.
Today, my dad is retired from public practice. He works his land and his business in the same conscientious and diligent manner he managed his public accounting practice.
As I reflect on my father, I think of the balance between being busy and being still. I always wondered why my dad didn't take on any of the any consulting projects offered to him after retirement. And I get it now.
He made a choice. A choice Ty and I find ourselves making every day for each other and our two kids.
The world is a different place today. Gone are the days when every weekend would find every kid in the neighborhood running around playing well into the dusk hours. Or hours of board games, weekends spent baking, cooking, or canning, or basketball pick-up games in the driveway. I get kind of nostalgic, thinking of the ways things must have been back in the day. The days where time moved at a slower pace. We've replaced these simple joys with loading up our families into our vehicles to travel an hour or more away to weekend soccer tournaments, gymnastics meets, swim meets, etc.
And don't get me wrong. Our daughter, Isabella is a competitive gymnast. She's at the gym 12 hours a week, not counting the 9 or 10 meets we have scheduled through January. She's also a competitive dancer, at the dance studio 3 hours a week. Cooper is in preschool, and does gymnastics and Awana Cubbies once a week each.
Each season we have to determine what our kids can handle well, and adjust our schedules accordingly. For this season, our family has figured out how to spend time together, be still, and be active... For now, it works.
And each season we will have to reevaluate what the meaning of "busy" and "productive" are. I don't want us to be "busy" chasing after too many different dreams at once.
Ty and I agreed a long time ago that we would help our kids excel at one or two areas they showed talent and passion in, rather than be involved in too many activities, and just be average at them. We want to teach our kids that sometimes we have to say "no" to things that make up a good life so we can say "yes" to the things that can lead us to a great life. And every family is different, every child is different, this is just what has worked for us.
My dad is a different man now, than he was when I was a child. I think it's a lot to do with him being still, not having as busy and as stressful a schedule as in the past. Over the years, I've seen how tender my dad is with our kids. When Isabella was small, my dad would see her, immediately go down on one knee, and talk to her at her level, building trust and love with her. He does the same with Cooper. He smiles all the time. His eyes light up with joy when he sees them. And my kids adore him. All the things I wanted for myself, my kids have with him. And I wouldn't have it any other way. When Isabella spends time with my dad, she is gentle, quiet, and at peace. She spends time with them on the farm to get away from her productive schedule. She spends time with my dad, and is still.
My point in all of this is that people do change. What I so desperately wanted for myself as a child, I now see my dad giving our kids. I didn't know what I was doing when I was younger, but I remember asking God over and over again for what I have today with my whole family...peace, acceptance, warmth, comfort, joy, love. I finally belong somewhere, and my kids do too. God is good, God is faithful, and I believe wholeheartedly that even when I was going through what I thought was so hard during the first 30+ years of my life, God had a plan all along to redeem all the sorrows. He was there in the midst of all of it.
And today, I seek to do as my father has done and modeled in his life...
"Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before" 1Thessalonians 4:11 (NLT)
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
This morning I went in to wake Cooper up to get him to school. He sat up, pumped his fist in the air, and proclaimed, "He spoke, and it came to be!" (Psalm 33:9)
I had to giggle because it was so adorable. See, the night before we had rushed through his Cubbies homework for tonight's Cubbies program. We usually go through his homework a little at a time, all week long, but for some reason, this week I didn't start until last night. Such is parenthood and a busy schedule.
Let's back up. Cooper attends the Awana Clubs Cubbies program every Wednesday night. What Cubbies does for us is provide us with a handbook that we can turn to every week, which helps reinforce the teaching Cooper receives at the weekly program. The program mixes bible teaching and verse memorization with songs, games, snacks, and fun. Isabella was a cubbie when she was younger, and as there are many incredible Wednesday night church programs for our little ones, I believe that as parents we should try different ones to find the right fit for each kid.
Anyway, Cooper's early morning proclamation got me thinking today of something I read a long time ago, and something I learned from some old mentors:
What you allow into your mind is what will come out of your mouth.
Think about this for a minute. The things we talk about typically reflect what we allow ourselves to think about. It reflects the programs we watch, the books or magazines we read, and the language of the people we surround ourselves with.
Think about this for a minute. The things we talk about typically reflect what we allow ourselves to think about. It reflects the programs we watch, the books or magazines we read, and the language of the people we surround ourselves with.
I also read somewhere that whatever you allow your brain to soak in before you go to bed is what your brain meditates on all night long. So it was of no surprise to me when Cooper said what he said this morning: "He spoke, and it came to be" (Psalm 33:9), as that was the bible verse that he was supposed to memorize for tonight's program. We worked and worked on it last night before bed. And I guess he has it memorized for tonight, and he'll get a sticker in his book for this achievement. It's the little things that make him happy.
As you think of the verse, think of how God spoke the whole world into existence. In the beginning, God said, "Let there be light" and there was light. That is how powerful God is. And as joint-heirs with Christ, our words are powerful too.
Our words shape our world, our attitude, our daily life. And now, I'm even more aware of my words, because not only are they shaping my life, they are shaping Cooper's and Isabella's life as well.
So I keep plugging away, filling both of my kids brains with those things that are true, noble, right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable... anything excellent or praiseworthy... God wants us to think about those things (Philippians 4:8). And my prayer for them is that if I can get their mind right, get it focused on what God would want them to do or say, then the words they speak will be pleasing, uplifting, encouraging, and a blessing to others.
I refuse to put my kids in a bubble. They are going to hear things at school, hear things on TV, that I wouldn't want them repeating. They are going to school with children that are being raised differently than them, where different words, phrases, behaviors, or mindsets may be permissible in their families, but not in ours. And that is ok! As long as at the end of the day, we can talk about different situations, and how we, as Christ followers, would handle them, it's ok! As parents, if we take the responsibility of diluting the negative of the world with the positive in the Word, I think we'll be pleasing God. It's a constant battle, but one that is worth fighting.
"He spoke, and it came to be". When I speak, I pray that my words may be good ones. Because if I really believe God, and what we speak, comes to be, I hope I'm speaking good things. I want good things to come to be, for our family and loved ones.
Saturday, October 5, 2013
Today is Saturday October 5, 2014. I just got done watching my friend Erin's son Liam play flag football. Well, the game was at 9, and we finally made it there at 9:45. So Cooper and I only caught a small portion of the game, but I'm hopeful that small snippets of time here and there will continually develop Cooper's passion for sports and excelling at something he loves.
So I came home, and I'm making cinnamon rolls for Isabella and her friend Audra. My house is a complete disaster, I still have laundry from two Wednesdays ago in a hamper in my bedroom waiting to be put away. Piles of dirty clothes look like land mines in my bedroom...but at least they are separated! My kitchen countertops feel slimy because I haven't wiped them down, there are dishes in the sink ready to be put into the dishwasher, but there are clean dishes in the dishwasher that need to be put away. I could go on and on. I do feel a small sense of accomplishment as I did get a couple of our business accounts balanced yesterday, but there is still a ton to do in my office. Has anyone been in this spot lately?
So amidst all this chaos, I felt God calling me to sit, be still, and write. Maybe it's a letter to him, maybe it's a letter to you, maybe it's just a letter to myself.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece called "Anxiety about the Future". As I don't know how to add links to my blog to direct you to that piece (another thing on my To Do list... figure out how to use Word Press and do all the fun things I have in store for this blog), if you want to read it, it was written in September. And ignore the formatting of some of the old posts...when I transferred them over from the other blog, some of the paragraphs got lost so they look kind of choppy. I'll be trying to fix that as soon as I have a little extra time.
Anyway, just a couple of weeks ago, my life seemed perfect. I felt that all my relationships were intact (which is a HUGE thing for me...I've struggled all my life at trying to find, and defining true friendship), everyone in my world was healthy, my kids were doing great, Ty and I were happy, and our finances were prospering. I could feel God's hand in everything I was doing, and every day ended with many blessings counted at night. But I knew in my heart that something was brewing in the distance.
But to tell you the truth, yes, some messy things happened to me in the last two weeks. But I believe the messes allowed me to see the messes all around me that have been around all summer long.
Messes like strife between friends, discontent, seeking of purpose in life, adjustments to new jobs, my pastor's wife's mother being admitted into the hospital unexpectedly, a friend's husband's cancer diagnosis, another friend possibly facing cancer, many friends' unexpected tears, furloughs for some of our friends who work for the government, marital struggles, unexpected divorce, my new awareness of human trafficking... they've been there all along. I've just been blissfully unaware.
Until now. I'm doing a bible study called Stuck, by Jennie Allen. And again, I wish I could direct you to Jennie Allen's website, or allow you to click on a link so you could purchase this study. Doing this study is making me aware of all of my "stuck" places. Also making me aware that although everyone may look pretty on the outside, like a gift wrapped in pretty wrapping paper with a large pink bow, I may not know exactly what's on the inside until we go deeper. Everyone around me looks so "pretty". But everyone (like myself) has a "stuck" place...whether they are aware of it or not is the question.
And that's where Grace comes in again for me. Because until we, ourselves, become aware of our "stuck" places, it's so hard to see there is a problem, and so hard to get help. But I believe that being shown Grace, allows us to feel Love, which allows us to open up and not feel condemned, to get us to a place where we can hear Truth, so we can finally get the help we need to get Unstuck.
My heart aches for humanity right now. My head's been spinning all week long with what's going on in the lives of the people I care about. And the best I know to do is Pray. And although I know that this is the best, parts of me still ache to find a way to take away the pain.
Thankfully, we went to a movie Thursday night, Kirk Cameron's Unstoppable. It put a little perspective on the question: "Why do bad things happen to Good People?". I can't take away the pain for my loved ones. And for someone who doesn't know God, it's hard to explain this question away. And I think this is why I so desperately at times want to do more to help people know God. Because knowing Him has made ALL the difference in Tyler's and my life.
Sometimes God allows us to go through the pain so we can come out stronger on the other side. I can't explain everything I got out of this movie, other than deepening my small understanding of God's deep love for us, and God's Sovereignty. If you can, please take some time to watch this movie. If nothing else, I think the filming of it was amazing.
No scripture reference today.
Just know that no matter where you are in journey, God's got you. God knows you even though you don't know him. He loves you.
GOD is bigger than any problem you are facing today.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
It happened on a Saturday morning. I was trying to make it to my Saturday abs class, and I was running a little late. At the bottom of the hill, I could see the police car peeking at me by the corner, patiently waiting for me to go by. I said a little prayer, for the police officer not to see me, but he did, and I found myself pulled over on the corner of Hudson and 12th as my neighbors went by me on their way to the same class.
So yes, I was speeding. Yes, I broke the law. And I could go into a million reasons as to why it shouldn't have happened that way, but it did, I got a speeding ticket, and that was that.
And this reminded me of a sermon pastor John gave a long time ago.
Okay, let's back up a bit. The words Grace, Mercy, Truth, Discipline, Justification, Sanctification, Righteousness, and Faith have been tumbling around in my head a lot lately. And over the years, I've asked myself...What do these words really mean? And how exactly do they apply to my life? And if they meant so much to Jesus, how can I live these words out in my day-to-day situations?
So let's go back to my speeding ticket. We can all agree that I broke the law by speeding. That I disobeyed the law. And the law punished me by giving me a ticket. I got what I deserved.
But WHAT IF the law had decided to give me a warning instead? In this case, even though I'd broken the law, I would have received MERCY, because I didn't receive the punishment I deserved.
And WHAT IF my neighbor Kara, who had been driving behind me, had decided to stop, pull the police officer aside, and said:
"Look, I know CC was speeding. I know she disobeyed the law. And I know that a speeding ticket needs to be issued to right this wrong. Let me, Kara, take that ticket. Write it up in my, Kara's, name. Let me pay that ticket, instead of CC, and right her wrong."
In this case, I would have received GRACE from Kara. Getting something good, for which I'd done absolutely nothing to deserve it.
See, MERCY says she won't give us the punishment we deserve. When Cooper is acting up, and says mean things to Isabella, or hits her just because he feels like it, when she doesn't react, doesn't hit back, doesn't yell at him...she's showing him mercy. Even though he may deserve her wrath at times, she withholds it and shows him mercy.
GRACE goes one step further. When Cooper acts up, and not only does Isabella withhold her wrath, but instead kneels down, tenderly hugs him, and tells him she loves him anyway, and gives him her last Scratch cupcake, she's giving him the gift of GRACE. Because in that moment, he may not deserve any of those good things, but she gives them to him anyway.
Pictures of GRACE:
When a husband commits adultery, and comes to his wife, and she knows in her heart that they'll be able to work things out, and forgives him for his wrong. GRACE.
When I yell at my husband for something petty because I'm stressed out about life, and he refuses to react, but lets me be, and then proceeds to make the bed amidst my crankiness. GRACE.
When I hurt a friend unintentionally, but still, I hurt her, and she forgives me, and makes sure I know it by continuing to intentionally live life with me. GRACE.
When a young friend is living a loose, questionable life, and instead of judging her, I continue to be there for her. GRACE.
When my friends accept me for who I am, all my mistakes, and choose to ignore all the little things that bug them about me because they love me despite my flaws. GRACE.
"While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8) GRACE.
See, as I've said in previous posts, we are all sinners. We are broken, flawed, and ugly on the inside. We disobey, put ourselves and our interests above others, and try to make ourselves look better in order to be accepted by others. We lie when we don't want to lie, we gossip when we know we shouldn't, we get angry and irritated about silly little things that aren't really all that important. We put our present wants and earthly desires before those things that will grant us eternal reward. We are HUMAN. Flawed. Broken. HUMAN.
And in that flawed, human state...in our sinful state, God still loved us so much that He gave his only son to die in our place. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. His blood covered our sins, no matter how badly we had messed up. Instead of giving us what we deserve, which is an eternity in hell, God gave us the gift of GRACE, giving us a way out of hell, even though we so deserve it.
And how does GRACE apply in my life today? When I start getting irritated, frustrated, angry, discontent, self-righteous, egotistical, or pride-filled; when I want to state my rights, and win an argument; when I think things are going unfairly for myself, my family, or my friends, and I want to lash out at the ones hurting them...
I remember God's gift of GRACE to me. When I feel hurt, irritated, frustrated, or angry at someone, I think of Jesus as he was beaten and bruised. He said "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34).
If Jesus could endure all of that, and still extend his executors grace, I know I should work really hard at extending grace to others, and myself (don't we all beat ourselves up constantly?) on a daily basis.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
You know when people ask you about your kids, and you start to describe them? When I describe Isabella, it goes something like this:
"Isabella is a perfect child. If I tell her "no", she rarely challenges me. She's smart and does well in school. She has a pleasant personality, she's easy to be around, and has a contagious laugh. If I were guaranteed more kids like her, I'd definitely have more."
Geez. I'd love to take credit for her awesomeness, but if you've heard the stories I have of my second child, Cooper (the "fun" one), you know I can't.
But she's not perfect.
She was about 3 when I started giving her vitamins. She disliked taking them but after I told her why she should be taking them, she didn't argue with me anymore.
I thought she was on board with the whole vitamin-every-day policy.
Until the day I took the seat cushions off the couch while cleaning.
What do you think I found?
Yup. A full weeks' worth of vitamins.
And that, my friends, was her first lie.
My heart sank. I knew this was the moment. The moment we all know is inevitable in our lives. Because we aren't perfect. Despite her awesomeness, her sinful nature was in full display through her first lie.
If you really think about it, there is no perfect person. We are all born sinners. I know that word, "sinners" is not a popular one. But all it means is that we are all disobedient people. We disobey in thoughts, words, and deeds. We don't always want to disobey, but somehow we just do. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
Don't let this upset you, me calling all of us sinners. Stay with me.
Why do we sin (disobey)? Why do we disobey?
Remember Adam and Eve? God only gave them one command to obey. But they disobeyed. They sinned. And this sin is what separated them from God. Separated us from God.
And that is how "sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned." (Romans 5:12)
So it's really not that big of a deal when I call myself a sinner. When I call Isabella a sinner. Because that's what we are. By nature, we are disobedient. Sit in this one for a moment.
I'd be pretty depressed reading this right now if I didn't know about this thing called grace. If I didn't know of God's passionate love for humanity. If I didn't know the one called Jesus.
"For just as through the disobedience of the one man (Adam) the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of one man (Jesus) the many will be made righteous." (Romans 5:19)
And all "righteous" means is that we are "in right standing with God". By accepting Jesus; who He was and what He did for us, we are made righteous because He paid for all our sin (our disobedience) through his perfect sacrifice.
That's it. That's really how simple it is. It's His gift to you with no strings attached.
You just have to accept it!
Sunday, September 22, 2013
It was September of 2007 and Isabella's 4th birthday was coming up. We walked into Peekaboo Baby a wonderful children's store on Main Street, and the first thing she laid her eyes on was a Melissa and Doug doll set.
"Mommy, can I have this, please, please, please?!?!!", she cried.
"No, honey, not today. We're here to pick up a baby gift for a friend of mine", I responded.
I did sneak back later that day without her and bought it for her birthday. When she opened her gift, she was super excited, but not very surprised.
I asked her why she wasn't surprised, and she told me that in the store, she just knew I would buy it for her at some point.
A couple of weeks later, as we lay in bed, she asked me:
"Mommy, what's the difference between Faith and Hope?"
I lay there, and my first instinct was to thank God for such a sweet moment. My next instinct was to ask for God to help me respond.
I asked her if she remembered when we stopped in at Peekaboo Baby. I asked her if she remembered the feeling of just knowing without any doubt that she would somehow end up with the doll set. I asked her if she remembered the difference between hoping she would get the doll set, and knowing she would get the doll set.
And that's the difference between Faith and Hope. I can put my hope in people, in circumstances, and in my ability to perform. But I know that all of these will fail me at some point. I know this because all have failed me at some point in the past.
But in trying and troubling times, even at my darkest hour, He has not failed me. There has always been a rainbow, after the darkest of storms. And placing my Faith in Jesus is what has carried me through, not my hope that things would turn out okay. Because hope means I'm not sure if things will turn out okay. But Faith is knowing that they will.
Placing my trust in my Faith in Jesus, in his perfect sacrifice to cover my shortcomings; my Faith in the perfect God of the universe who created me and loved me so much He sacrificed his only Son for me, and my Faith in the Holy Spirit who has proven to me over and over again that his gentle leading helps me live life best, is infallible.
I thought about why Isabella was so sure I would get her the doll set. This is what i came up with:
See, she knows me intimately. She knows my character, my great love for her, my desire to give to her, especially when she doesn't whine and disobey. She lives with me. She lives within the boundaries that I set for her, knowing that I only set the boundaries to protect her and bless her, not to constrain her or keep her from anything good in life.
She knew me well enough to know I would give her the desire of her heart, if not at that very minute in the store, at some point in the future.
Her Faith in me comes from knowing me.
My Faith in Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit comes from knowing Him.
So I live now knowing that it's not my responsibility to "save" people. But I so desperately want for my friends and loved ones to know how much they are loved by God, and what He did for them, and what He continues to want to do in them and for them.
And this is why I write: Romans 9:14.
Did you see where it says that "the same Lord is Lord over ALL and richly blesses ALL who call on him..."
But how can one call on someone he doesn't believe in?
And how does one believe in someone that he's never been told about?
Stay with me. I'm going to continue writing about this God I'm getting to know better. And my deepest desire is this:
1. for people to experience my Faith
2. for people to choose to trust Jesus for themselves
3. for people to choose to follow him and know him
4. for people to then want to share this good news with their loved ones.