Hi there! Me again. It’s been 3 months since my last blog. I am ashamed of that but I’m back and starting again. I think I have had lots of thoughts and ideas for posts in the last three months, but I haven’t allowed myself to sit long enough and make them happen. But then today, something that I said to Brian after lunch kind of collided with a few things that Pastor David spoke about in his sermon this morning and I knew I needed to explore them here.
Brian’s dad, Dennie Suman, is battling cancer. He has been for a few years, but about a year ago it was “under control” and he was on monthly “maintenance” treatments. Recently it has begun growing again, and now the doctors are finding new tumors. He is rapidly losing weight and honestly, things do not look good. It’s sad to watch. Brian was moved to go spend some time with his daddy and really ask him where he stood with the Lord. He was able to pray with Dennie, and invited him to church today. I’ll admit I was a little surprised when I turned the corner this morning and found he and Pat (his longtime “girlfriend”) in the lobby. I had feared that he would just be too tired to get up and out the door for church – but he made it! I did my best not to let the shock of his sunken face and dramatic weight loss show on my face. I was thrilled they were there to worship with us.
Pastor David continued his series entitled “Who We Are” and spoke of how the world views us as Christians. Are we a people who would walk to the other side of the road and right past someone in need? Or do we stop and help people out of their ditches and love on them and let them see Jesus in us. (Okay…there was much more to his sermon – this is what really resonated with me). Are we, as Christians, telling people what they need or are we showing people Jesus in our actions and in our lives?
So – here is where these two parts of my world came together today. After having lunch and a tearful, tough goodbye to Dennie and Pat, Brian and I quietly came home – both kind of fighting tears (he may not admit that). I told him that I just feel helpless and that we need to do something for his dad and Pat. Maybe I could cook some dinners, maybe we could go do yard work or clean their house. Whatever!?!? I just felt like we needed to DO something. But why? Of course any or all of those things would be nice things to do – and I’m sure they would be appreciated and helpful to them. But those things were really about me. Why did I feel the need to just do and do and do? I guess because I don’t know what else there is…If I could run out and find a cure for this horrible disease, I would certainly do that. But I don’t know what else to do! And then I was reminded of this morning’s sermon…maybe I don’t need to necessarily DO….maybe I need to show. Perhaps what Dennie and Pat need the most right now is to be shown the love of Jesus. Maybe they need to see Him in the midst of our prayers and tears. Should we be showing them our belief that if it’s God’s will that he will heal Dennie. Can we show them God’s love for them through us in a prayer-filled visit?
As these words flow through me to this screen, I’m thinking – well isn’t helping them with daily chores a way of showing them Jesus? Can’t we be the hands and feet of Jesus through small acts of service? Yes – those are ways of showing love – but what if what they need is more than simple chores done around their house! To me that is showing – and doing out of love. But I think that sometimes there is more. Can we show them our faith through this storm by not wavering and by leaning in to God through these scary times? We can show them our worship and praise to a God whom we KNOW is bigger than any of this on earth. I believe that if we really need to DO something for them at this point, it should be by SHOWing them that we believe in our heavenly father and will follow him and trust in him to make all things good, so that he may be glorified.
Ok….this is the fourth attempt at starting this post. I know what I am trying to say but the words are just not coming out in any logical fashion. They are coming out like cheesy cliches – and that is NOT how I want to sound or what I ever want to share in this forum. I am weighed down this morning by a sadness that I can’t seem to express. Why do I read…hear…and almost believe the idea that its ok to be who I am – but can’t seem to actually own that reality and live it every day? Why am I unable to drown out the voices that incessantly chirp in my ear about my shortcomings? Why is the “bad” always easier to believe than the good? Who am I to think that I am ___________ (fill in the blank with anything…worthy, beautiful, okay, able, – you get the idea). I know that I am told that I have been “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14. I read that…I believe it because it is from God…but there are many days where I DO NOT live it. I know deep in my soul that God loves me. I feel his love carry me through dark times and joyfulness. When I am alone in my fears, I cling to His love to sustain me. I do. But I still have doubts at times about ME. I’m not sure how that makes any sense. Perhaps when I fall to the dangerous act of comparing myself to others – it is then that I feel “less than” worthy. Comparison kills confidence for sure. When I am asked to step out and be bold I shrink and hide behind my insecurities. I become like Adam and Eve in the garden – sewing fig leaves to hide their reality. Ashamed of who they were and what they had done, they attempted to hide themselves from God. What do I need to hide? What am I afraid of revealing to the world? (As I type these ramblings of questions – I truly am not sure I can even answer them. As I reread and edit – I am not sure this even makes any sense). I guess my take away from this time spent pondering is that I don’t have to hide from the God who created me. He knows what I am attempting to conceal from the world – my endless insecurities and fear of failure. He knows and yet he loves me anyway. It doesn’t matter what the world sees or thinks, or if they judge and hate. I am broken. But with God I am whole. I am afraid. But with God I have not a spirit of fear. I am insecure. But with God I can do all things. I am weak. But in my weakness I am strong through Christ. I need to stop sewing leaves to hide myself from the judgement of others and stand strong in who I am in God.
I love the energy and excitement that surround the educational process. I love learning. I am passionate about reading and writing. I love the idea of sharing what I know with others – and even better – teaching others how to think and learn for themselves. I teach middle school English/Language Arts so one would think that I would be as happy as a clam that I get to do what I love every day. And I will admit there are flashes of those truly wonderful, teachable moments. But lately, I have just been drained of my passion and love for teaching and for learning. It makes me sad. I wish I could re-capture some of the excitement and figure out how to pass it on to my students…but lately that has not been the case. (I’m a little embarrassed to admit that – but I have to be transparent – or I should not even bother to blog). During one of our amazing early morning conversations, Brian helped me really get to the heart of why I have been pretty miserable lately at school. It’s not about kids who misbehave, or administrators who seem to be out of touch. It’s not even about parents who are practically non-existent in the lives of their children. I’m certain those things occur everywhere. The revelation that I had this early morning was that it is just dark here. There is no light. There is so much brokenness and hurt and pain that light has a hard time shining through. And when a glimmer of light seems to shine through, it is quickly extinguished. I try not to write negative posts – and I’m not trying to throw myself a pity party about my work situation. Again, I’m just trying to be real about life and about the hardships and struggles. Matt Chandler, in his latest message, spoke about people who “pretend” things are ok and great – just so they will appear to be further in their walk than they really are. I don’t want to be one of those people who pretend all is well and that I am positive all the time and that nothing gets to me because I am a strong woman of faith. Rather, because I am a strong woman of faith, I can be real about life and problems and darkness, and know that God meets me where I am and loves me for who I am. I pray daily that I could be a light to someone here in my school. But reality hits me that it may not look the way I think it should. I know in my heart that some people occasionally stand in just a glimpse of the light in me…but I feel that most of the time, that light is swallowed up by the thick darkness of the world in which I work. It is my prayer now and going forward that I do not ever relent in my desire to shine. That I do not ever let the darkness of the world snuff out the candle I carry. And that I commit to memory that there really is NO such thing as darkness….it is just the absence of light. May my light NEVER be absent in this place.
Selfishness (noun): Placing concern with oneself or one’s own interests above the well-being of others.
This is a post that I has been building inside of me for a very long time. I have been thinking about this word, and seeing the effects of it in so many different ways over the last few months, that I know that God is trying to show me something. As Christians, we are called to die to ourselves. Period. There is no second, “easier” option if we want to live for Christ. There is no watered-down way to follow Jesus. We die to ourselves. We give up placing concern with our wants, needs, and desires above – or at the cost of – others. Brian and I have four teenagers. If anybody witnesses selfishness on a daily basis, we do. Teenagers (mostly for just lack of maturity – God please let them outgrow it) are selfish by nature. They are really only concerned with their wants and needs. (Mostly their wants). Around our house – the majority of “conflict” or issues that arise are all borne out of someone being more concerned with themselves than with others. As we have grown as a couple and as a family – we have really come to understand that selfishness can tear people apart if gone unchecked. The more I live my life trying to walk with God and become more Christ-like, the more I see that MANY of the things that cause people to stumble – and the majority of sins in our world all come down to selfishness. People want what they want regardless of who else it may hurt or destroy. People do what THEY want to do – even when knowing it is wrong – because they think only about their own pleasure or fulfillment. We know that the right thing to do would be this option – but the easier thing to do is the selfish option. I’m NOT perfect. I know that I am a selfish person. WE ALL ARE. But here’s the thing…as Christ followers, we are commanded to deny ourselves. That means sometimes we don’t get what we want. That means sacrifice. That may mean pain. But if we want to follow him, it is no longer about US! Christ is our example. Christ showed us how to live for others – how to love others – in the extreme example of sacrifice when he gave his life for us. Not the easy option, not the “feel-good” option. But rather, a pure act of SELFLESSNESS. Jesus gave us everything, including his life. Jesus is our pattern and example. This earthly life is not about us. We are here only by the grace of God. We have hope because of the selfless act of God sending his son to take away our sin. We should do nothing less than show ourselves to be selfless in this life. In small ways, how can we become less about ourselves and more about God and others? How can we shift our focus from our own sinful desires to the love of God and the joy in living for him? Living for ourselves is NOT an option. Selfishness will eventually destroy us, our homes, and our lives. We must learn (and it is a process!) to deny ourselves (not about what we want anymore) and pick up the cross and follow Jesus.
My word for 2014 is perspective. I can honestly say that I have thought of that word very often during the first few weeks of the year. Especially today. In my last post I talked about the weight-loss journey upon which I’ve embarked this year. It’s going well. I’ve gotten into a good routine with my eating, been drinking lots of water, and have been trying to get some exercise in. Since our temps have been ridiculous, I have had to resort to finding some indoor activity. Brian and recently acquired a treadmill that had been just taking up space in my parent’s garage and I have spent some time on it. Today I was feeling very motivated and decided to spend an hour walking and listening to Matt Chandler’s latest podcast. I changed into my sweats, got my headphones adjusted perfectly, turned the treadmill up to a decent pace and got moving. For approximately 17 seconds. And then the treadmill quit. Stopped. I was NOT a happy girl. As a matter of fact I was livid. I kept thinking…this is awful. I can’t believe this happened. My afternoon is ruined. In the midst of my temper tantrum I decided to go ahead and hit the grocery since white death is apparently on its way again. Still fuming mad, I mad my way up and down the crowded aisles of the store, ready to run over anyone who got in my way. And then it hit me…like a punch to the face it hit me. All morning I had been praying for the Blair family, whose young son was just this week diagnosed with cancer. The pictures of him at the hospital and the updates about his prognosis were in my heart all day and I was tearfully praying for comfort and strength for this special family. So here I am upset – livid – about the fact that the treadmill died and I didn’t get my workout in…and right here in my community, a family had just been dealt some devastating news about their toddler. My perspective was so far off course. I was so caught up in ME and my selfishness…and people I know have just had their world turned upside down. Life is really about perspective. This reminder humbled me and made me feel downright silly. But it also made me very aware of the way that God is so busy at work on me. He reminds me daily that I am his beloved by nudging me (and by nudging me I mean slapping me silly) with words, thoughts, and reminders. I am so thankful for my word – perspective – and for God keeping me in check.
When I first decided to try this whole blogging thing, I wanted it to be a way for me to express myself and my growth in faith and life. As I have begun to find my voice in all the areas of my life, I have realized that one word that has followed me through much of my recent past is “authentic”. In this blog – and in my everyday life – my goal is to be authentic. I want to be real. The real me God created me to be. With that authenticity must come transparency. I don’t only want to post about the great things in life, but also the trials and hardships that we face (I have done my share of that). But now that I’m struggling with something that’s pretty personal to me – now is when my resolve to be transparent is truly tested. But I’ve got to be real. Otherwise I shouldn’t be blogging. So…I have never been a fan of resolutions. Why? Because I’m a failure – and resolutions point that fact out to me every time I make them. Come on – don’t judge me – we are all failures at some thing.) This year, though, I knew it was time to make a change in my eating habits. I did not necessarily make a New Year’s resolution – I knew that I had a weight issue before the holidays – but also knew that trying to make a lifestyle change during Christmas was a great way to ensure failure. So here we are at the beginning of a new year, none of my very limited wardrobe fits, and I am heavier than I have ever been in my ENTIRE life (yes, even when I was pregnant). Something has to change. I have been so careless with the junk I have fed my body and I have NOT made exercise a priority and it has all caught up with me. I know this did not happen overnight, but the feeling of being completely out of control came over me at all once and for the last few days has nearly crippled me. So, a few thousand tears later, a few pity parties later, a few self-depricating fat jokes later, here I am…ready to be real about it all. I am miserable with my weight and size right now. I don’t really think of myself as being especially vain, and as I type this about how ashamed of my weight, I feel a little shallow and superficial. I know that God loves me for the person who I am. And I know that beautiful doesn’t mean skinny, and I know that my friends and family love me just the way I am…but this is about me. This is about the way I feel each and every day when I look in the mirror. This is about the lack of energy I have. This is about looking around the corner at 50 and thinking about the years I have left on this earth – and being healthy enough to enjoy those days with my husband. It’s time to get real. I believe that God wants us to be good stewards of not only the material blessings he has given us – but also of the earthly bodies that he has given us. Shamefully, I have been more concerned with the instant gratification that comes along with a butterscotch sundae than I have been with taking care of my body. I honestly believe that God is at work in all of this. I think that he has really allowed me to feel the weight of this struggle (that was an awful pun) and has let me sink this deep to get my attention. I have come to admit that I am powerless to control my life, and I am ready to turn this battle over to God. Is it wrong to seek His strength in even this area of my life? I don’t think so. I think he stands ready and waiting to help us overcome any and all of our hurts, hang-ups and habits. I can’t feel guilty for asking for his strength in my battle with my weight…I need him to see me through this! My will power is NOT enough, I need me some God power.
So…today, my brand new scale flashes 175 pounds. Here is where my journey starts…with God as my guide. I fully know that if I try to do this on my own I will fail. I need my family and friends to celebrate my successes with me, and to pick me up when I fall (and to knock me over if I pick up a butterscotch sundae). And I need my God to supply the will and the power when I don’t have enough on my own. It’s time to be real. It’s time to rely on God to help me in this, the way I claim to in every other area of my life. I can do this…WE can do this.
So today, while home with two of the kids on yet another snow day, my son said something that kind of stopped me in my tracks. We were goofing around in the kitchen, fixing a snack and he made some sort of 16 year old boy remark to his sister. While the remark wasn’t “awful” – it was not necessary and by my standards a bit rude. I “gently” corrected him – not by yelling or threatening punishment – but rather I reminded him to speak life-giving words. I asked him to make sure his words were appropriate and positive. My daughter smiled – no, she smirked at him and then gave me the angelic, batting her eyelashes grin. My son looked at me and told me that I’m no fun anymore. Hmpf. I’m no fun. I’ll be honest, I tend to ignore (bad mom) most things that come out of our teenagers mouths…as I believe that a lot of what they say is spoken for shock value…but this one I chose to take to heart – a little. And wow – we actually had a conversation about it. When I asked him to explain what he meant by fun and by anymore. He went on to explain that “before” I used to joke around more and that I wasn’t always on them about the things they said. Of course I had to ask him to define “before.” His reply – “before you started loving God so much.” Hmmm…I’m a big believer in no making absolute statements (ask Brian about this). I don’t thinks are “always or never.” So for my son to say I’m NO fun was a bit of an absolute. I kept drilling down on this statement (ask Brian about this too). “So, I’m no fun because I ask you to make your words life-giving? What else?” He replied that I used to let them watch other tv show and movies, and that I didn’t used to care really about their music. But mostly, its just that I just don’t like them to joke around with certain topics nor do I join in the conversations and that I’m just different. Different in the way I talk and in the was I act. I chewed on the comments for a bit before I let myself have any kind of reaction. It was actually the closest thing to a conversation I have had with one of our teenagers in a long time – so that was definitely a win. But even more than that – the bigger “win” was this…I’m glad that my kids see a change in me. If they didn’t see the transformation that has taken place in my life since I completely surrendered my life to Christ, then I would have to really question myself. It had never really struck me how MY change, MY salvation, MY redemption had affected those closest to me. While it was not especially pleasant to hear on of our children tell me that I’m really no fun (what does he know anyway?) it became a God moment for me at the same time. God promised that if we follow Him, if we walk in his light, that we will become a new creation. We should be transformed, and others should see that transformation. If the biggest change that my kids see in me comes from loving God so much – well I’ll take that any day! And I’ll pray that someday they will find the “fun” that I have found in living my life for God.