Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In Other Words--An Unhappy Mother

"I don't want to be that mother!" she blurted out.

Her surprised friend gently asked, "What mother?"

"The mother whose children have to tiptoe around her because they don't know if today is a crying day or an angry day."

"Isn't that a good enough reason to get help?"

And it was. The friends were discussing some depression that one of them was experiencing. Having grown up in a bipolar home, depression scared her. Her own mother would spend days locked in her room crying. Then there would be days that were "normal" by most people's definitions. But even those days were punctuated by a short-temper and angry outbursts. She didn't want her children to remember her the way she remembered her mother.

"'If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!'
We smile as we read the wall plaque in the novelty store. But our smile quickly turns to a frown if truly "Mama ain't happy." This is because the wife and mother in a family often "sets the tone" in the home. The "tone" God wants her to set is one of joy, optimism, and a delight in the Lord and in her family. If your family were called upon to describe you, what would they say?"
~Martha Peace, "The Excellent Wife"

The mother sets the tone of the house. But what if the reason that "mama ain't happy" is more physical than a choice? Then it is a good reason to get help. In fact, it is more than a reason, it is a necessity. If this is you, please choose to get help. Go to the Great Physician with your concerns. But also, please, see your local physician for help.

On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Matthew 9:12-13

Christin at As Gold Refined is our hostess for In Other Words this week. Visit and be blessed.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

IOW--Close Enough to Betray?

To be intimate with others is to reveal our innermost selves to them, including our emotions, thoughts and desires. For such deep sharing of the soul and spirit to occur, people must respect and trust each other. ... In a world controlled by sin, however, to choose to be intimate is to choose to be hurt. Yet Jesus calls us to this kind of intimacy with Him and with one another.
~Kenneth A. Schmidt~

Growing up I was a loner. I didn't really connect with a lot of people. Part of it was extreme shyness (although that is hard to believe now). Part of it was geographic since we lived out of town, on the farm and there were no other little girls my age "running-to-play-with" distance. But mostly, it was fear. I didn't want to find out I didn't fit in, so I didn't try that much. So it came as a huge surprise to me my Freshman year of High School to finally make that kind of friend. He (yes, he) and I were home ec partners and buddies for the first few weeks. He treated me like a little sister. Then, there was a tragic accident that killed two fellow students. He was in the car that the other two had hit. We were suddenly bound together in a real way. We talked about "real" things that most high school students aren't having to talk about yet. We shared our hopes for the futures. We cried together. When things were rough at home (and what teenager doesn't experience rough times at home) we talked about that. We gave each other advice. We laughed together. We cut class together. We criticized each other's choices in dates. We argued. We forgave. Even when we were both away at college and beyond, we would talk on the phone and be the sounding board for the other's frustrations. It was a total friendship--heart, mind and soul. Since he knew more about what made me tick than even I did (must have been the counselor in him) and I knew more about him that most people, we assumed that nothing could change the friendship. It was almost a "You will always be my friend, you know too much" situation.

But something did change it. Slowly it got eroded. Then in a what could have easily been explained but was instead just handled callously situation, he hurt not only my feelings but the feelings of someone close to me. That person, trying to protect me, issued some harsh words to my friend. I was told of the interaction after the fact. I believed firmly that my friend and I would move forward--after all we had been friends for ten years at this point. I trusted in the friendship. And he totally betrayed it. I was devastated. I had given a part of me to someone and after holding it tenderly for years he gave it away, seemingly with little thought.

I was thinking about this friend as I read the quote by Mr. Schmidt. I don't know anything about the context of this quote, but I feel it. The intimacy that comes in relationships make us vulnerable. The world we live in causes us to receive pain from those we love, and to cause pain to those we love. (Sadly, I can tell more than one story where I was the betrayer, not the betrayed. I'm not proud of that fact, but it is the reality of living in a fallen world. We have to admit it when we are the betrayer, ask for forgiveness and try again.) Fourteen years after this story took place, I can still feel the stab of how much it hurt when my friend betrayed. Not a stab of anger or resentment, but a recognition that it happened and it hurt.

Last night, I was privileged to attend a concert by Michael Card at my church. As he sang these words:

Only a friend can betray a friend,
A stranger has nothing to gain.
And only a friend comes close enough
To ever cause so much pain.

I again thought of this quote. Only when we are close and vulnerable can we be betrayed. But as the Schmidt quote continues, ultimately we are not called to this kind of intimacy with just the people around us--we are called to this intimacy with God Himself in Jesus. And although He will never betray us or abandon us, often we feel that stab of pain because we are expecting Him to act one way and instead He acts another or because we have allowed sin to so separate us we feel abandoned. We must remember that He is steadfast in nature and will not betray us. But, we are fickle. We betray Him over and over. And in the intimacy of the relationship, that does bring Him pain. I find that the more I reflect on this theme, the more I find that I need to confess where I betray Him, where I've pained Him. I need to confess the "big" things when I choose blatant rebellion over following His word. I need to confess the other things as well--neglecting my time with Him because I can do it "later", reflecting Him in a way to others (especially my children) that totally misrepresents who He is and denying His unmistakable hold on my life to try and chase things that are not my best.

In my relationship with God, I am never the betrayed but I am often the betrayer. That thought humbles me. It drives me to my knees. And I pray it keeps me there, confessing my fickleness and learning in the intimacy of the Savior to not betray Him or others.

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:9-10

I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread. Psalm 37:25

But I'll never throw them out,
never abandon or disown them.
Do you think I'd withdraw my holy promise?
or take back words I'd already spoken? Psalm 89:33-34 (The Message)

Father, forgive me for betraying you. Forgive me for putting my selfish desires before your plans. Forgive me for ignoring our relationship to chase things that are vaporous at best. I recognize that because You have sought intimacy with me that when I do these things I cause you pain. Forgive me. And in my earthly relationships, help me to forgive when I am betrayed and help me to not betray those who have allowed me close enough to pain them. In Jesus' name, because his sacrifice covers all my sin, Amen.

This week's hostess for In Other Words is Bonnie. Please visit her place and read some of the reflections on this quote. I promise you, you will be blessed.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

IOW--Beyond my Expectations

Sunday was Flower's first week to go to "big church" for the first half and then leave for Sunday School. Up until now, she has been downstairs for the whole service in the creche (nursery for US readers). She usually gets whisked downstairs about five minutes before the service starts, which is about 3 minutes before the church fills up, lol.

So Sunday she was looking around, waving at people and chatting away with folks she only ever sees after the service. All of a sudden her eyes grow big and she points up and says, "how'd they get up there?" She was pointing to the balcony, which she had never noticed. I explained that there was a door and showed her where it was. She kept repeating "people are up there." Her church world had been widened. There was a new dimension to a building she thought she knew so well. And it fascinated her. She will never look at it the same again.

Cute. Bordering on adorable.

Consider, then, this interaction that I often have with God. (Maybe you have these interactions as well.)

"Wow, how'd that verse get there?" eyes growing wide.
"It's always been there."
"No seriously, I've never seen that before."
"You've never looked."
"I've read this passage before!"
"I didn't say you hadn't read it, you hadn't looked at it."
"Reading the words and reading My meaning aren't always the same thing."
"I still don't get it."
"You read My Word to get it to conform to your agenda. I want you to read it to conform to Mine."
"Oh....wow," shaking head in amazement and dropping eyes in shame.

And just like Flower, my view is widened. There is yet another dimension to God's work in my life. And I am fascinated. Hopefully, I allow it to change me and I'm never the same again.

Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and bring Him nearer to our own image.

~ A. W. Tozer ~

Father, today, help me to be willing to modify myself in order to conform to Your agenda. Give me wisdom to differentiate the differences. Widen my view. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Today's In Other Words is hosted by Deborah at Chocolate and Coffee. Please visit there to read other reflections on the Tozer quote.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Marriage--Happiness or Holiness?

1st Monday Every Month at Chrysalis
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I never planned to get married. I was happy as a single person. I was content in who I was. I was happily involved in ministries that I thought would be hindered by relationships. But God had other plans. And when he brought German into my life (you'll have to wait until next month's Marriage Monday to hear that story), I wasn't so sure that God understood my plans. After all, I was happy and content and leading a successful single's ministry. But God saw the bigger picture.

Within a few months of our getting married, I began to see the bigger picture as well. The only problem was, I was totally unhappy. Miserable in the circumstances would have been a better description. We were still head-over-heels in love, and totally amazed that God had seen fit to allow us to meet and get married. But the emotional reaction to the circumstances was anything but positive. God still held the bigger picture, and He knew in coming through the current trial we would not only be happy and content, but we would be a clearer example of unconditional love in a marriage. He was making us holy, but for a time it meant allowing us to be unhappy.

Four months after we got married, German was transferred at work from Spokane, Washington where our life together was to Birmingham, Alabama. The job was great. We were excited about the move. But when he left in March, I stayed behind to finish at work and sell the house before I could join him. The housing market fell apart at the same time. Finally in September we decided that we were miserable apart, and I would just move down. We arranged for someone to watch the house and the cat until the house sold. It took another four months before it sold. But we learned so much in those months.

We learned that we still had to depend on God, even though we were now married. With thousands of miles between us we could not depend on each other for day-to-day needs and we could not manage the other's emotional needs from a distance. We learned that when God says love unconditionally He means unconditionally. I don't think I would have easily given my heart to German if I had known he would leave me and move across the country---but God had already caused me to love him when it happened. In that same vein I learned to respect German's leading our family even if it seemed impossible. Through lots of mistakes, I finally got it that complaining about the "job" taking him away was an attack on him not the job. So, I learned to take those things to God.

Those lessons were painful. But they were important. They helped to set our marriage apart. They gave us a testimony of God's faithfulness in struggles. They taught us to totally appreciated the times that God brings the good and fun in our life--to be totally happy in each other's presence. More importantly, they taught us that even if we could not find that elusive happiness in the situation we could still find God's peace and joy in His presences. Finally they prepared us for a time when God would say "take the job" and it would lead German to move to England, and leave me in Birmingham. Only in that move we were able to not reside in the unhappy miserable mental state of before, because God had refined us in the early years.

God allows us to find happiness in our marriage. He delights when we are delighting in what He has given us. But as important as our emotional state, His first desire is to make us holy. And He uses our marriages to develop His holiness in our lives. That's how it should be--since our marriages reflect His relationship with the church.
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:22-27

I'm so thankful He gives me a friend, partner and lover with whom I can share happy times. But I'm most grateful that He works in all of my marriage to make us holy. That is the ultimate desire of my heart.

Marriage Monday is a meme hosted by e-Mom at Chrysalis.blogspot.com the first Monday of each month. It is an opportunity to explore different themes within the topic of marriage. Please visit some of the others writing on this subject of happiness or holiness. I know you will be blessed.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Roman Holiday (part three of three)

Here are just some miscellaneous shots that are my favorites.

What is a holiday without food shots?


And GELATO!!! (Flower's favorite part of Rome)

Then there were these pictures in the forum that encapsulate Rome for me: History, Tourists and Catholicism
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But here is my favorite picture of all!

Hope you enjoyed your virtual Roman Holiday!

Roman Holiday (part two of three)

More sightseeing photos around Rome:

Running on the Circus Maximus

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Fountains in Piazza de Navona

The Pyramid

Trevi Fountain--yes we all threw in coins to "insure" we will someday return to Rome.

Fountain at the Spanish Steps

One of the cool things about this trip was that German's very best friend/more like a brother from High School Days was in Rome with his family on business. Our plan was to spend the entire day together on their third day in Rome. On their first day in Rome we had left a message that said we were at Trevi Fountain headed to the Spanish Steps. We finished taking our pictures at the top of the Spanish Steps and started down. I heard someone say "I wonder how close we can get to them before they see us?" It was our friends. They had got our message and headed out the door immediately to try and catch us...you know in the little village of Rome with oodles of tourists. It was awesome! Here is a shot from the all-day touristy day 3.

One more post to come...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Roman Holiday (part one of three)

I have finally uploaded some pics from our awesome week in Rome and thought I'd share a few with you all! The last time we were in Rome Jewel was six months old and I had thrown out my back the morning we left. Needless to say, my memories of Rome were not completely wonderful. So I could not wait to go back and *truly* experience it!

Our first day we spent in the rain, going to St. Peter's and to the Sistine Chapel. When I say in the rain, that is literal. We waited in the queue outside St. Peter's for 40 minutes, and in the queue for the Sistine Chapel for over an hour!


But the sites are amazing! One of my favorite Michelangelo sculptures is his Pieta, so this was awesome to see.



The architecture is incredible. The dome is beautiful. Not being Catholic, the importance of the Vatican is only historical and political to me. But, many of my friends are Catholic and I know that this is somewhat of a spiritual home. So, while there, standing under the dome, I was able to say prayers for Nicola and Olive and Maria and thank God that their faith impacts my life.


shhhh...cameras aren't allowed

The next day, the sun came out! Yay! We spent the day at the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Here are a few pics of that day...


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the girls were most excited about walking on the Roman road after studying it at school!

That's just days one and two! More to come...