Thursday, May 31, 2012

Good Grief!

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in more praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.--1 Peter 1: 6-7
"Grieved by various trials".  Boy, doesn't that describe life some times?  So much of life is troublesome and annoying.  These verses hit my heart like an arrow when I read them this weekend.  Because, to be honest, a lot of times I get in the way of my troubles resulting in praise and glory to my Savior.
I've dealt with a lot of health issues pretty much my entire life.  Nothing major, for which I am so thankful.  I don't have cancer, I didn't have any developmental issues, I have full function of all my senses and limbs.  Put into perspective, I have had it pretty doggone easy.  Nothing terrible.  Just annoying and tiresome.  And a lot of it.

I got a horrible case of mono two years ago that really did me in, and my body has kept hold of some pretty awesome souvenirs from it's long journey dealing with that virus.  The days I feel unwell in some way far outnumber the days I feel great.  My health has kept me from work, from fun, and from serving.  We owe thousands in doctor bills.  I constantly am praying for wisdom as to whether or not to do certain things because I wonder what my body can handle.  I'm terrified of pregnancy (I mean, ff my body can't function well under normal circumstances, how is it going to grow a human??).  I get frustrated because my health keeps me from so many things--from feeling energetic, from going to the gym when I want to, from volunteering for things, from financial security (see how God likes to breed dependence on Him in so many ways through this one thing?  He's pretty good like that).  I have begged and pleaded to God for restored health.  It always seems to elusive.

Reading these verses in 1 Peter this weekend was completely by accident.  I was at camp with middle school students and we were supposed to be reading in 2 Peter.  God had other plans and I "accidentally" read 1 Peter instead.  The words softened my heart.  Because maybe it's not God's will to heal me.   Maybe He wants to get praise out of getting me through each sickness one episode at a time.  Maybe He wants glory from providing extra money for us to help pay down our bills.  Maybe He wants honor through sustaining me spiritually even when I get frustrated.  Maybe He wants glory for providing my husband with such grace and kindness through my never ending physical limits.  

Perhaps my health will get better as time goes on.  One day I could be shouting from every rooftop that my God, the great healer, has restored my health.  My body might remain strong and healthy through a multitude of pregnancies (okay, maybe not a multitude; I have no desire to rival a Duggar with my baby making efficiency!). God would get glory for that.  But, He will also get glory through my remembering that having a crazy doctor bill and missing some days of work and not getting paid are not so big that they undermine his role as my provider.   He will also get praise by getting me through a tiring weekend at camp with students, surviving on little sleep, and feeling great so that I could pour into the sweet girls in my cabin (even if that weekend had bookends of feeling crappy--He's so good like that!). 

I have no right to tell my God how He should get His glory out of my life.  I just pray He gets it.  And that no matter what happens, that I react not in frustration or anger or a demanding of my rights, but that my faith would be "found to result in more praise, and glory, and honor" to Him alone.  To God be the glory!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fun Friday

Here's a little something fun to watch!  Hope it inspires you to dance today!

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rules I Do Not Understand

Not everybody is going to do things the way I would.  Working with kids for so many years has definitely made me realize that not everybody approaches parenting, or even working with kids, the same way that I do.  Usually it's just a matter of preference and I won't bring it up (except to my husband to tell him we most certainly are or are not going to do whatever it is that I observed).  Here is something, however, that I just don't understand:

We don't tattle.  

I've heard this from several people recently and I must confess I think having this as a rule is one of the dumbest things you can do as a parent.  
Often I think parents use this as a way to cope with the constant tattling they deal with.  I worked for years as a nanny and as a director of afterschool programs for kids and yes, kids have tendencies to constantly want to tell you what their sibling or peer is doing.  And yes, it gets annoying.  And yes, most of the time they do it out of the motive to get the other person in trouble.  And yes, often they report behavior that they themselves engage in.  

If you establish a "no tattling" rule though, is that a good thing?  Aren't you severing lines of communication with your child (or students whichever the case may be)?  We are encouraging our children to overlook bad behavior, and to not tell us when someone is doing something they shouldn't.  And I am mystified as to why.  We live in a society where children are taking their own lives as a result of years of bullying.  Often bullying goes unpunished and often without an adult knowing about it.

To me, there is a connection.  Kids aren't telling us what is happening.  How can I tell my child to not tattle but to expect them to report bad behavior to me?  Isn't that just tattling?  I tell my daughter not to tattle on my son and she sees porn on his computer or finds cigarettes in his backpack?  What is she supposed to do?  I tell my students not to tattle on each other and Peter sees Paul picking on Mary or cheating on a test--what happens then?  Honestly, I think "no tattling" rules are created by teachers and parents who are just down right lazy and don't want to deal with the drama of kids.  I think it fosters a horrible environment of no accountability.

From a spiritual standpoint, I think a no tattling rule is detrimental to my children.  As Christians, we are called and commanded to keep each other accountable.  I think it's something we don't do often enough and definitely don't do well.  I want to raise my kids to be able to both give and receive accountability in love.  But if David Jr. can't come to me over some small act of behavior that Amanda Jr. is engaging in, how can I expect him to one day go to his sister (or any other Christian) in love over sin in her life?  Some would probably say I'm making a stretch between tattling and spiritual accountability, but to me tattling is where it starts.  I teach them to come to me over anything.  To hold each other accountable when it comes to rules, obedience, and fairness.  To teach that we want to encourage each other to always do what is right and good.  And that when someone isn't doing what they should, we should come along beside them in love and help them.  And that sometimes we need to tell an adult or authority figure because that is important.  

Tattling is a teaching opportunity.  Both for our children and for us.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Finding friendship

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather is one of those things that give value to survival."
- C. S. Lewis 

This picture is of my friend Sarah and I at my wedding rehearsal.  Sarah is one of my closest and dearest friends.  We first met in college at Auburn and she has been a constant in my life ever since then.  

College was a time of sweet friendship for me.  I had a group of really awesome friends.  There were 7 of us-guys and girls-who were really close.  I had such a blast those 4 years getting to know the awesome men and women God placed in my life.  After college I felt a little displaced friendship wise.  I didn't have a cell phone or Internet when I first moved to Knoxville so keeping in touch was a little hard.  I didn't have money to travel back to Auburn to reunite with friends at football games.  Rather quickly, a lot of my friendships faded.  And I didn't have new ones here to hold me steady.  It was a hard time.

Fast forward 2 years and I found my home church and it's awesome young adult community.  I was involved in a small group and formed some close, authentic, living the life together type of friendships.   And I thrived.  Being single makes a person have an active social life, I think.  My calendar wasn't the only thing that was filling up; I had people to talk to, pray with, cry with...people to go shopping with or take trips with. I have to say that that season of life, though filled with so many other ups and downs--was so blessed by the friendships to be my anchor through it all.

The nature of the young adult life though is that it is one that is always in transition.  Friends began to move away for jobs or to get married.  The number of close friends I had living out of state began to rival those I had within my same city.  I began to sense that lack of close friends who lived nearby.  Things got even worse once Dave and I got married.  I think it's natural for married people to hang out less with other people once they get married.  For Dave and I, that stereotype held true.  Two months after we got married Dave was in school full time and working and I was working 2 jobs.  We hardly felt like we got to see each other we were so busy.  A month later I got sick with a horrible case of mono that stayed with me for months (and even now has left me with some pretty chronic health issues).  I was coming home and falling asleep during Jeopardy (for those of you who aren't fans of televised trivia, Jeopardy airs at 7:30--an OK bed time for an infant and that's about it).  Our social lives really fell off the map then.  I was too sick to do much of anything other than go to work, and even that wasn't happening a lot.  Needless to say, we didn't get out much.  Dave entered his second year of school in a specialized program that was essentially a full time job during the day, followed up by hours of homework and studying each night. 

When we got married we had prayed about where to get involved in our church.  For whatever reason our church holds it as morally sinful for marrieds and singles to interact (that's an exaggeration, but for whatever reason they really try hard to push married people out of the single community groups--I totally disagree with it, but that's a tangent for another day).  Our options were to either join a married group or do something else.  We opted for the latter.  We never had a desire to join a married couple's group.  For one, a lot of our friends here were single.  We hated the idea of stopping fellowship with them simply because we were married.  We felt that the married community groups were a little clique-ish, and that we wouldn't fit in.  So we volunteered with students at our church, and that was fine.  It did not, however, do anything for our social life.  

We find ourselves now not only eager for community, but at a place where we can start experiencing it again.  Dave is 2 six-week clinicals away from being done with school (no more studying-woohoo!).  My job is transitioning and I no longer work 10+ hours a day.  We were excited to have all this newly created time to spend with our friends, only to find that we really don't have many friends here left.  Oh, we have a handful of people who we love and like to hang out with.  But by handful I mean, really, a handful (as in less than half a dozen).  People are busy.  People have babies.  Our very closest friends live miles and miles and miles away.  And it's hard.  

Making friends as an adult is hard, mostly for lack of an environment in which to find them.  Dave and I still don't desire to be part of a Couple's community group (to be honest we would be outcasts in them because we don't have children--I think they kick you out if you're not at least in your second trimester).  I ache for friendship.  My closest girl friends all live in other places.  And while I cherish every phone call, email, and letter from them, and while they are very much a part of my life--I am missing having women I can see and talk with on a weekly basis.  I am on a quest for friends!  Dave and I are beginning to discuss and pray through how and where God wants us to be involved in our church this next year.  I'm doing a women's Bible study this summer that hopefully will at least yield an acquaintance or two.  I hate losing friends.  And I hate waking up to this realization that I don't have many (it's an embarrassing thing to admit).  I'm praying that God provides both my husband and I with new friends here where we are.  Or that we can figure out how to kidnap all of our friends and relocate them to TN.  For now, we're trying to reconnect with friends here and keep an open mind about where God would have those friendships waiting.  

"Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song...I get by with a little help from my friends"-Lennon/McCartney


Friday, May 11, 2012

Currently Loving

This beautiful print.  Fear is something I am working hard to overcome, and I love the simplicity of both this print and the verse.  I need this hanging somewhere where I can see it everyday.  Maybe one for every room?

How cute is this pink chevron train case?  Something this cute almost inspires me to go to the gym just so I can use it when I get ready there.

I have love longed Watermark.  Have been returning to this song quite a bit lately. 

Um, how freaking adorable is this??  The hubs and I are big Marvel fans and I could just see a little future bug wearing this!

This video is the best display of what marriage was meant to be.  Watch it.  Let it change what you think marriage is.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Family Matters

Did you have a family mantra or rule growing up?  I have heard of families that have little sayings or rules they go by to govern their behavior.  The Duggars have been seen on TV quoting their "Never raise a hand to hit; never raise a foot to kick" guideline.  Other families have had things like "Never tattle unless someone is hurt" (something I DO NOT understand or agree with--that's a tangent for later), or "Always tell the truth", or "Use kind words".  I never had such a thing growing up and have often wondered if I would use sayings or rules like that for our family some day.

I've worked with children a lot over the years, and can say with certainty that having little quotes and rules can do a lot in helping kids learn to make better choices.  Especially if it's things that are short and easy for them to remember.  I worked in a school once where they had something called "first request"--meaning you need to do what you are asked after the first request and that you should not be asked again.  I loved it!  I could say just those two words-"first request"--and those words would serve as a reminder to prompt kids to go ahead and do what I had already asked them.  Since every kid in the school knew what these words meant, it was a label for desired behavior that could be applied to every kid in every situation in which obedience wasn't instant.

This week my kids at work have been horrible.  We have our fair share of squabbles and drama, but it definitely gets worse the closer we get to the end of the school year.  I intervened countless times in fights and arguments yesterday and it got me thinking about how I want my kids to handle arguments, offenses, and forgiveness.

Forgiveness is something I want to teach my children because of its importance not only in human relationships but in their spiritual walk as well.  (Side note: saying "I'm sorry" does nothing in teaching forgiveness to children in my opinion; what it does teach is lying and manipulation through emotion, and it's not a phrase I am overly fond of because of its misuse).  I started thinking about all of this yesterday and came up (rather instantaneously) with four steps for overcoming offenses/forgiveness that I want to teach my kids.

1.  Recognize the wrong done.
I think this is the logical first step.  Why have my kid apologize for something if they aren't even willing to confront that they did something wrong to someone?  Usually in an argument or fight both parties have attributed to the conflict in some way.

2.  Ask forgiveness from God.
John reminds us that unconfessed sin stands in the way between us and God.  God is quick to forgive, though--I want my kids to know this!  I want them to be aware that Satan wants us to hide our sin in secrecy to keep us from God--and that we should not let sin keep us from our Father.

3.  Ask forgiveness from the one wronged.
This is where my "saying I'm sorry doesn't cut it" philosophy comes in to play.  I want my kids to name the wrongdoing and seek forgiveness.  I think that as a general rule we don't own up to our sin enough; especially our sin that wrongs or hurts other people.  Forgiving and being forgiven are essential to our health and well being.

4.  Live free
I want  my kids to know that once a wrong is confessed and forgiven, that they need to walk in the freedom Christ provides.  Guilt is not from God.  It is a snare set out by their enemy to trip them up.  On the flip side of this, I don't want my kids to be lording past sins over others.  I want to teach them that they need to do their part in encouraging fresh starts and clean slates (while at the same time not enabling those around them in sinful behavior).  

Maybe some day I'll have these rules tacked up on a wall somewhere in our house as a reminder to them (and to me) on how God wants us to resolve conflict.  Love doesn't abide in homes on its own.  Even in Christian ones.  Forgiveness has a lot to do with letting love live. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Let them eat cake!

As I have previously mentioned, birthdays are a huge deal to me.  With birthdays, comes cake!  I have had oodles of different kinds of birthday cakes over the span of my (nearly!) 30 years.  My mom used to make this amazing homemade Strawberry Cassis cake for my birthday.  True story:  she made that cake for me the first birthday I had when I was away at college, dropped it off at a friend's apartment without me knowing because she and my dad came to visit the weekend before my actual b-day, and my friend showed up at my party with a cake my mom had made.  So I got to have strawberry cake on my birthday even though my mom was two states away.  True story #2:  the cake (which is very labor intensive) overflowed in the oven and sparked a fire and almost set my mom's kitchen on fire that year.  If my mom's oven could talk, I'm convinced it would tell that story.

I was browsing the Internet and came across these gems:

An R2D2 cake??  (from Devilish Delights)  This is amazing!  Another favorite is this one:

Princess Aurora Cake (by Sharon Posey)

Sleeping Beauty is one of my favorite Disney movies, and the scene where they make her cake and dress is my favorite.  If money were no object (aka I was the daughter of a sheik or a Kardashian), this cake would be mine!  Alas, I am neither, and as money is a factor, I instead will be celebrating with this decadent chocolate cheesecake. 
 I plan on whipping up this baby tomorrow after work so it can chill overnight before my big day on Saturday.  You can't go wrong with cream cheese and chocolate.  They are one of the ultimate duos, right up there with Regis and Kelly and Simon and Garfunkel.  (Side note: wouldn't Garfunkel be the coolest name to have?  It's so odd it's cool, unlike my name, which is just odd). 

Here's to making my cake and eating it, too!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sweet Summer Time

The weather here the past couple of days has been fantastic; low eighties and sunny, with a delicious breeze to keep the air from getting too sticky and hot.  I absolutely love summer: the warmth, the sunshine, being able to throw off the confines of closed toe shoes and wear flip flops again.

Some of the best memories of my life are tied to summer: my cousins and I chasing lightning bugs in my Grandma's yard late at night in our pajamas; camping every summer of my childhood where I would spend countless hours swimming and riding my bike; my first trip out of the country where I fell in love with the Andes Mountains and the people there; I married my best friend on a beautiful summer's day two years ago.  Summer has a way of making my soul more light hearted and confident of the future.

When I think of summer I also think of camp.  Two summers in college I had the privilege of working at Camp Crestridge in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Oh, what good summers those were!

I loved working there.  Loved the mountains I lived in. the sweet friends I made.  Loved learning to depend on God in new ways when I was so tired by week 6 that all I wanted was a nap when the 10 giggly girls in my cabin would never settle down and get quiet.  I loved Campfire Nights on Tuesdays--those were my favorite!  I loved treks to the Nibble Nook for ice cream on Sundays, and sitting on the front porch of the dining hall drinking Cheerwine while the sweet sound of girls laughing and living life filled my ears.

Some of the best friends of my life came from my time at camp.  Sometimes, on warm days like today, I get such an ache to be back there, enjoying the company of these sweet friends and soaking in the faithfulness of my Father like the sun on my skin.  I have dreams of going back there some day.  My friend Kara and I used to always say we would come back and work as Laundry Ladies while our girls were at camp.  I'm so thankful for those two short summers God gave me, and love the sweet memories that a simple summery day can stir up.  Maybe someday years down the road I'll come across this sign again as I drop my own babies off for a summer...