Tuesday, May 30, 2006

This Is Only a Test

I receive Weekly Wisdom from Christ Notes in my inbox. A couple of weeks ago, the lesson was "You can't have a testimony without a test." The explanation that followed included the statement "The challenging events that we go through are what refine us and make us more like Christ. Indeed, 1 Peter 1:6-7 says that one of the purposes of going through grief and trials is so that our faith can grow and be proven genuine."

I agree with that. I've also noticed that when God has something to tell us, He'll often repeat the message so that we don't miss it. Sure enough, there is a message that God wants me to get, because as I was reading the book I mentioned earlier, there it was again.

Speaking of Abraham's faith, Sheila Walsh points out that his greatest test didn't come early in his relationship with God, but much later, after his faith had matured. Early on, his faith was small, and he kept trying to help God's plan along - fleeing to Egypt, deceiving the king, taking a concubine. . . you know the story. God didn't give up on him, and when the time came for the ultimate test, he was proven faithful.

The message for me is twofold:

1) As I sit here right now missing my kids and feeling discouraged, God is at work, in them and in me. He keeps His promises, and He will equip me to do whatever He calls me to do.

2) It's not about whose mother I am. It's about Who my Father is.

The purpose of this test is to strengthen my faith, and He will sustain me. I can rest assured.

Spiritual Meme

I considered myself tagged for this because BooMama said I could.

What is your life verse?
Isaiah 40:31 - But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. I've always loved this verse, although I haven't always exactly been patient. I definitely need the reminder.

Give a bit of your testimony.
I was brought up in church, baptized at age 9 when my family joined a Southern Baptist church, and saved at the age of 14 when I realized that I hadn't fully understood salvation the first time I walked the aisle. I was faithful and obedient for the next 4 years, then at 18 I took my eyes off Christ and looked elsewhere for fulfillment. I was a prodigal for 10 years, longing to be led back into the fold, but too ashamed to go on my own. When my husband "got religion", we joined a Southern Baptist church near us, and although I knew without a doubt that I was my Father's child, I still struggled with guilt over my many years of rebellion and other issues. I became the church Financial Secretary and taught Sunday school, and tried my best to be what God wanted me to be. I loved church, but I wasn't allowed to bring it home with me. Ten years later, tired of living a lie, I ended my destructive marriage and turned my life completely over to God. He has been with me all the time, waiting for me to realize that my emptiness was a need that only He could fill, and that I didn't have to earn His forgiveness. I now attend a United Methodist church which I am prayerfully considering joining.

Do you have a favorite preacher?
Not really. I like Adrian Rogers, and I do enjoy the sermons of Wiley Magee, a chaplain for the Louisiana State Corrections Department who spoke at my home church a few times.

What's the best Bible study you've ever done?
Returning to Holiness by Dr. Gregory Frizzell. Our church had done the study in preparation for revival several years ago, but I went through it again on my own last year. Very humbling. I'm dying to do a Beth Moore study.

What do you feel is God's calling on your life?
Right now, to be a godly example to my husband and kids as wife and mother/other mother. I went to college for a degree in Speech Pathology, but dropped out after one year and never went back. I think teaching is what I was meant to do, but not necessarily in a classroom.

I'm tagging Barb because she always tags me, and I would love to hear her story; and Mandy because she's a new christian; and Diane because she has such a sweet spirit; and anyone else who hasn't been tagged because I don't want them to feel left out.

A Good Book to Read

Yesterday I finished reading Sheila Walsh's "Extraordinary Faith", a gift from my friend and ex-wife-in-law.

If you've ever wondered if you have enough faith or if you've ever felt that you have failed God one too many times, I encourage you to read this book.

She points out that God is faithful, even when we falter. When we bring what we have to Him, He will do the rest.

Great gift! Thanks, April.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Thursday Thirteen - Reasons I Love My Husband

Carl and I met online about 6 months before we decided to meet in person. On our first date, he felt something inside his sweater and turned up the front hem to see what it was. When I saw the safety pin, I said the first thing that popped into my head: Aww, did you lose your lunch money? The sound of his laughter was music to my ears. A year and half later, on March 10, 2004, we exchanged wedding vows at the Old Mill in North Litle Rock, Arkansas.

It's funny that this would be the topic of today's 13. Just yesterday, when I told him I love him, he asked, "Why?" and I said, "There is no Y in love, dear." To be completely honest, I love him for every reason and for no reason at all. How do you narrow that down? I'll give it a try.

1) He is extremely intelligent, but he doesn't make me feel stupid. He challenges me to think for myself and values my opinion.

2) He is a funny, funny man, and I can make him laugh. Love that.

3) He is a handyman. He can fix just about anything and loves working with his hands. Anyone who calls on him for help knows that he will not turn them down, and he will not accept payment for odd jobs they ask him to do.

4) He is muli-talented. Art, poetry, music - his creativity astounds me. He has played the guitar professionally, both in studio and with a band. He knows every Don Williams song, and I love it when he plays and sings for me. He's also very modest and won't admit to being good, but trust me. He's good.

5) He is romantic. Playing guitar and singing to me? Writing poetry for me? Most romantic man I've ever met. He enjoys holding hands and walking in the park, candlelight dinners, picnics, and quiet evenings at home.

6) He is thoughtful. He's always asking "is there anything I can do for you?" He is affectionate. Hugs and kisses me all the time, touches me when he walks by.

7) He is generous to a fault. He cares nothing about material things and would rather give than receive.

8) He loves me like no other. He knows my faults and doesn't pretend to think I'm perfect. He treats me with respect, opens the car door for me, rubs my feet, massages my shoulders. He thinks I'm beautiful and tells me so. He doesn't expect me to do things for him that he can do for himself. He appreciates everything I do for him. I am his equal, not his servant.

9) He is a family man. He loves his kids and has a wonderful relationship with their mother. He cares very much for my kids, would do anything for them, and is waiting for them to give him a chance. He does not tolerate disrespect of their mother (or other mother) from any of the kids. Activities are kid-centered, not dad-centered.

10) He's handsome. Rugged, but not rough. Strong, but not muscle-bound. My masculine geek (that makes him laugh).

11) He is committed. He doesn't scope out other women. He would never set foot in a "gentleman's club" and finds Hooters offensive. He likes my mind and my company, not just my looks (good thing, too, since they're starting to fade.) He rarely leaves home without me.

12) He is confident. Not the least bit jealous. Not a hint of insecurity. He does not doubt my love for him, and he trusts me completely. We don't keep secrets from each other. He doesn't judge or accuse.

13) He accepts my family and treats my parents with respect.

For all these reasons and more, I love this man who calls me his wife.

Fwd: Fw: Fw: When you care enough to send the very blessed.

To all my friends and fellow bloggers:

I wish to express my deepest, heartfelt, sincerest gratitude to all of you who don't forward the entire contents of your inbox to mine. You read my blog, sometimes leave comments, and sometimes send personal email. For that, I am truly thankful. God bless you!

To everyone else:

I enjoy a good joke, really I do, and I love inspirational stories. Those pictures are very cute, adorable even, and the warnings are helpful. But y'all! Did you know that you can click "Create mail" and send a message of your very own? You can even make up your own title! How cool is that? I know, some things are just too compelling not to pass along, especially if the chances of your wish coming true or your blessings being increased are multiplied by the number of people you send it to. If you must click "Forward", please, please, check the names of the other recipients so you don't send them the same message they just received from whoever sent it to you. We'd appreciate it.

p.s. You're wasting your time if you send me anything that MUST be forwarded in order to have wishes granted or to receive blessings. It shall be deleted.

Let us ponder a few questions, shall we? How do they know how many times that woman has walked around the internet? Who's keeping track? Where do those petitions go, and how do they get them back? What's the point of making a wish before saying a prayer? Is that for "just in case" God and the Forward Fairy are rolling dice to see who gets to grant the next request? Think about that. Email me your thoughts if you like. :)

There are real people out there sharing real stories of pain and healing, struggle and triumph, loss and hope. Their experiences are personal, heartbreaking, uplifting, humbling, encouraging, and genuine. They reach out to one another. They lift each other up in prayer. They are blessed, and I am blessed through them.

That, folks, is why I blog.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Down-Home Schoolin'

We (not us) southerners have issues with pronouns, in case y'all haven't noticed. Most of us (not we) might have begun that sentence with "Us", but that would have been incorrect. Now I don't claim to be no expert, but I do know a thing or two about grammar. See that double negative? That is perfectly acceptable in southern speech, because it's (not its) a known fact that we (not us) southerners like to emphasize a point, even if it is grammatically incorrect.

Seems to me (not I) that by the time we (not us) get to grammar school, our speech patterns have already taken root. We say things like "me and bubba went fishing" and before we can finish telling y'all how big the fish was, the teacher rudely interrupts and says "bubba and I". What the heck - she wasn't even there! So we go again, and she interrupts again, this time telling us that we should always say "bubba and I" and not never "me and bubba". However, she neglects to tell us that sometimes it is correct to say "me and bubba" or, better yet, "bubba and me". That's probably because she's a southerner herself and takes great pride in having graduated from an institute of higher learning, which must be reflected in her refined speech and does not recognize the use of "bubba and me" as correct even when it is. [end rant]

That's my best guess anyway as to why there is so much confusion over the correct use of pronouns. So I'm going to try to set the record straight (or skrate) once and for all. I will attempt to simplify it without the use of words like "subjective" and "objective" because, frankly, it's not about diagramming sentences. It's about "you" and "me" -which is, by the way, grammatically correct.

I = you, he, she, it, we, they (anything on this line can be substituted for or used with any other and still make sense)

me = you, him, her, it, us, them (same here)

When trying to decide whether to say "bubba and I" or "bubba and me", substitute "we" or "us".

We (bubba and I) went fishing. Mama whupped us (bubba and me) for skipping school. She told us (me and bubba) don't never do that again!

That's all there is to it, folks. Any questions (or kwerstions)?

OK then, moving right along.

Apostrophe's also seem to crop up all over the place where they aren't needed. (Hint: The first one is not needed, but the second one is.) Again, I'll make it simple.

To make it plural, add s; to show possession, add 's. To make a contraction, use ' to replace the dropped letter or letters (not letter's).

F'rinstance, y'all is a contraction of you all, therefore the ' should be placed between y and a.

That's it, y'all.

Do what you will with punctuation.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Crush

My daughter has a crush. A long-distance crush that she has maintained for oh, about a month or so. He's the older brother of a friend back home. He has a truck. He's a hottie. With a job. He wants to take her fishing and camping, and shopping even. He is apparently all that and a bag of shoes.

Before she left for Arkansas, he had been calling her every night, and she would just go on and on about him when they weren't on the phone. "He said this and he said that and oh mom he's so sweet and we like the same things and he talks about marriage..."

WHAT! Hold on just a minute there, little miss OCD, you haven't even been on a date with him yet. You've still got some growing up to do, and you're not ready to make that kind of commitment. Trust me on this one. You need to slow down. "Mom! What's your problem? We're not talking about us getting married, we're just talking, you know."

So I warned her to be careful. Some guys will say anything. They have ulterior motives. They tell you what they think you want to hear, but they don't really mean it. "Oh really? Did Dad do that?" Of course. It's the oldest trick in the book. "What did he say to you?" I told her the magic words he had said to me, and she said "Mom! That is SOOO LAME! I can't believe you fell for that!"

I reminded her of the story in Genesis about how Eve had been deceived. Satan tempted her into disobedience with lies cloaked in truth. He appealed to her senses and convinced her that it was good for her because it was attractive and desirable. He uses the same tactics today.

I hope she remembers our conversation. And I hope Satan doesn't drive a truck.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Do Try This at Home

Many of you have preschoolers, and your stories and pictures remind me of when my girls were small and how much I enjoyed every minute of it. I know I can't turn back time, but I would so go through all of it again just for the joy of seeing the world through the eyes of a child. Maybe I just really miss Barney and Sing-Along-Songs and reading "Good Night, Moon" countless times. Oh, the fun we had! We have many of the girls' antics (recorded for Posterity, whoever that is) on video tape, and they enjoy watching themselves at that age as much as I do.

When I was a kid, we didn't have camcorders, but my mom recorded most of our "firsts" in our baby books. One of the entries in mine is a picture of me at 2 holding a book. The caption says I was reading, but my mom says I had only memorized the words. I don't know how old I was when I did learn to read, but I do remember my great aunt having me sit on her lap reading to her before I started school. I remember the kid in first grade who insisted that I had failed the year before because I was the best reader in class. I didn't even know what failed meant. All I knew was that I loved to read, and I had been taught at home.

So began my love affair with the written word. I wanted to instill this same love for learning in my kids. I refused to use baby-talk with them. It didn't make any sense to me to deliberately teach them to mispronounce words and have to re-teach them later to say them correctly. When Lindsey first started talking, she would repeat everything we said, and I wanted her to know the correct names for things even if she couldn't pronounce them. If she said "bah-bah" she knew she meant bottle and so did I.

We watched Wheel-of-Fortune regularly, and she'd sit there and call out "E!" when the contestants were guessing letters, so I started teaching her the other letters. She liked this game, so after she learned to say the alphabet, I started spelling words for her to learn. She'd dance around the kitchen sing-songing "S-T-O-P stop, G-O go, Y-E-S yes, N-O no". She had just turned two. I read to her every night, and she would "read" right along with me, turning the page at the appropriate time. Yes, she had the books memorized. One day on the way to daycare, she spotted a sign and said "Alright! Taco Bell!" I had to laugh because she had never even been there. OK, so she's watching too much television, but she read a sign! I know she didn't really read it, but she made the connection. We were on a roll! I bought flash cards so I could teach her to recognize the letters that she loved to sing.

By the time she was 3, she knew all the letters and the sounds they make. When she actually did read her first word, the look on her face was priceless. We had pulled up to a stop sign, and I asked her if she knew what the sign said. "I don't know" was her answer. I told her to look at the letters and say them out loud. She said "S--T--O--P STOP! Mama, it says stop!" How proud she was of herself when she realized she could read. She couldn't wait to get home and read all of her books to me.

I did the same thing with Sarah, and both of them were reading above grade level before they started kindergarten. I didn't really think it was so unusual, but one day when I went in to pick them up from the after-school program, the teacher in charge said "You're Sarah's mom, aren't you? I've heard all about how well she can read. How did you do that?" That may have been one of my proudest moments.

I also remember how preschoolers can wear you out, leaving you feeling so frazzled at the end of the day that the last thing you want to do is read the same book again, especially when she can recite the whole thing herself. So let me encourage you to do it anyway, because your child will benefit from it, and his teacher will thank you.

Having Church

I intended to attend church this morning, but my back is stiff and my right shoulder is sore, so I'm not moving around much, at least not very quickly. I got up and realized that I would never make it on time at the rate I'm going, so I decided that I'll go to the evening service instead.

Y'all my daughter Sarah called me a few minutes ago! My heart is rejoicing. How nice to hear her voice. She's on her class trip to Sea World, having fun with her friends, and her mother crossed her mind. She only wanted to know how to get the flash to work on the camera I gave her, but she thought to call me! You're probably thinking "So?" but let me tell you, usually she has to be reminded to call just to say hi. The whole conversation took less than a minute, and she said she'll call me later. She has no idea how much what she just did means to me. I would have missed her call if I'd rushed out the door to get to church this morning, but I'm having church right now. Glory hallelujah! Thank God for my aching back!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

It Was a Good Day

Today we drove to Nashville to meet my babydaddy. He offered to meet halfway, y'all, and I didn't hesitate to take him up on it. Lindsey wanted to leave yesterday, but that would have meant a 20-hour trip for us. No thanks. We may make the trip next weekend to visit with Sarah (it's been a while) and my parents (their anniversary is May 31) and my niece (she's turning six). Hopefully, we'll have the money to go.

It was a nice drive - beautiful weather for it, and an hour delay due to road construction. We talked and listened to the radio. Between Lindsey saying "scan it, Mom" and me saying "in a minute, Linds", Carl managed to get a few words in edgewise. As we passed by a small RV in which the driver was, um, how do you say - picking his nose - I pointed out the Winnebago logo on the side. Carl said "Nah, it's a Winnebooger." This is why I married him, y'all. He cracks me up.

I made babydaddy promise to have the girls call me daily, and I reminded him that teenagers being, you know, teenagers, he would have to keep an eye on her. And his thumb. It just goes with the territory. After I hugged and kissed her 'bye, we headed home.

The return drive was quiet. Peaceful. No radio, a little conversation. Our very first road trip was like that. Carl had flown to Memphis where I picked him up at the airport. We spent the weekend together in Arkansas before I took him back to Memphis to catch his flight home. We stayed a little too long at my mom's, and he missed his flight. I offered to drive him home, and he accepted. We drove 10 hours and never once turned on the radio. We talked and laughed and sang the entire trip. We enjoyed each other's company so much and learned more about each other than we had on all our previous dates combined. I'll never forget that. Never in my life have I felt more comfortable with any person other than my kids. We still like to drive in silence.

While it's hard being apart from my kids, our marriage needs some undivided attention. We're looking forward to having some time alone for the next 10 weeks.

I would like to ask a favor of all you. Please be in prayer for my girls. I know they're in God's hands, so I don't worry about their needs being met, but I also know their dad. Pray for him, too. Maybe they will be an influence on him rather than being influenced by him. He isn't the enemy, I hope, but it's hard to tell whose team he's playing on. We need backup of the spiritual warfare kind.

God is faithful, and His plan is perfect. He will not fail.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Friday Fourteen (because I'm too late for the Thursday 13 - big surprise, no?)

Y'all! I made a LIST! (Go me!)

Fourteen, count 'em folks, fourteen things I love about summer.

1) The bright blue sky, a warm breeze, and flowers. All the sights, smells, and sounds of summer, really. (Sweat doesn't count.)

2) Grilling - everything tastes better grilled, with few exceptions.

3) Watermelon, as far as I know, is one exception. I've never had it grilled, but it's really good chilled.

4) Picnics - if you're gonna cook outside, ya might as well eat outside too. The 5-second rule does not apply at picnics, especially to watermelon.

5) A tall glass of iced tea. And unlimited refills. Sweetened with sugar.

6) Homemade ice cream - vanilla, with butterfinger chunks. YUM! Hand-cranked, y'all.

7) Swimming - just remember to wait an hour after eating.

8) Trips to the beach. I love to walk along the shore collecting seashells with waves lapping at my feet and sand between my toes.

9) Lounging by the pool or on the beach and getting lost in a novel. Now that's relaxing.

10) Banana Boat tanning oil with SPF4, sundrenched complexions and bleached-out hair. And freckles. Freckles are adorable.

11) Children running around after dark chasing fireflies and playing "Ghost, ghost, are you out tonight?"

12) Camping and flyfishing at the Chatooga River. I've never caught anything, but I learned to cast last year. Hubby's the fisherman.

13) Nighttime critter sounds. I like sleeping with the window open and a fan blowing if it's not too hot outside. Like camping, only comfortable.

14) Rain. The sound and the smell of it.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Tagged! Time Management 101

I have been tagged by Mandy to offer tips on time management. I may be more clueless than anyone in this department as I have absolutely no time management skills. I was probably born late, I'm late everywhere I go, and I'll be late to my own funeral. (pun intended)

If I could save time in a bottle . . . I'd inadvertently misplace it or someone would knock it over and break it, then I'd have another mess to clean up - which I might get around to . . . eventually.

I'm a world-class procrastinationist. I do not own a calendar. I suck at making lists - ok, a wish list I can do, but a grocery list or a to do list? Fuhgeddaboudit.
On 2nd thought, even my wish list is pathetic. Oh, and those preprinted lists? Useless. I simply am not organized enough.

You're wondering how I function at all, aren't you? The answer might surprise you.

KISS = Keep It Simple, Sister

I do like to have a place for everything, and I'll designate an area for "stuff", but whether said "stuff" makes it to its proper place is pretty much irrelevant. Not worth fighting over, in other words.

This is not a natural born trait. My mom liked things done a certain way - and if I didn't do it that way, she'd go behind me and redo it. Do you know how much extra work that is? She always said "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself." (Granted, she needs consistency and order to prevent distress, and I totally get that now, but I had no clue then.) We were a quarrelsome bunch.

My sisters are not laid back. They delegate and authoritate (sometimes rather loudly), and their kids do what they're told, how they're told, when they're told. Yes, the kids are very well-behaved (much better than mine), but their moms are STRESSED OUT. It works for them, I guess, but it doesn't work for me.

My first husband had to have things done HIS way. It wasn't enough that I ironed, I had to do it like HE learned in the military (not the creases, mind you, the stupid procedure). He yelled and criticized a lot. Very quarrelsome.

It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.
Proverbs 21:9 is my verse to live by. If what it takes to get and keep my house organized is ranting and raving, then I'll take that corner of the roof, thank you very much.

My advice? Decide what's most important and do that first.
Don't sweat the small stuff!

Answers to Some of Life's Tough Questions

Ever wonder why when you're a kid, it seems like forever from one Christmas to the next, but when you get older they come around too soon (like, before you've paid off the last one)? Because to a four year old, 12 months is one quarter of her life. To a forty year old it's 1/40th. It used to seem like a lifetime because it almost was! The same rule applies to birthdays and other special occasions. (I had this one figured out a long time ago. Shortly after I started dreading Christmas.)

Why does it always rain right after you wash your car? Because you washed it right before it rained. If it really bothers you, do what my mom does - wash your car in the rain. (Saves water.)

Why do we get so impatient waiting in line at the store? I have no idea on this one, folks. The longer the line, the longer I get to keep my money.

Why are teenagers impossible? I'm convinced that it's to prepare us moms for their leaving home. If they stayed sweet and precious all their lives, we'd be wishing they'd never grow up. We invest large portions of our lives in nurturing, teaching, comforting, protecting, and guiding them, and that becomes our identity. We'll always be mom, and they'll always need us, but it's our duty to prepare them for the day they leave the nest. Hopefully, we'll have taught them to be independent, to make wise decisions, to love God above all else, to care for others, and to be happy with themselves. Hopefully, we'll have done our job so well that when they're ready try out their wings, they'll reach greater heights than we had imagined. Hopefully, when that time comes, we'll also be ready to watch them soar. But just in case, they enter that stage that makes us wish abortion after the 64th trimester were legal. And by the time they're through with us, we're looking forward to missing them.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Works-For-Me Wednesday

Holy Mama and I must be on the same wavelength, because my tip is also something I try to do when eating out. I pray over my food, but I also try to remember to pray for the people who prepared it, and for the people who serve it. This makes it a lot easier to smile when they get my order wrong.

For some really cool tips, go see Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer. She rocks!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Blindsided by Forgiveness

I've been wanting for some time to share this. It never ceases to amaze me how God works in unexpected ways and how perfect His timing is.

I was in the process of typing my 3-part series about my moving here and how God has been at work all along even though it wasn't clear to me at the time. As I was typing, I went into a little more detail than I should have regarding my ex, and I had to edit out a LOT of stuff. I realized then just how much bitterness I still felt towards him and that at some point I would have to forgive him. Trouble is, I really didn't want to let him off the hook for things he had done and is still doing, but I said a quick prayer asking God to forgive me and deliver me from my bitterness. I continued typing, then I cut that whole section out and saved it in another document. I thought I may want to write about it later - much, much later - y'know, after God has thoroughly dealt with me over it.

When I finally finished and posted the edited version, I turned off my computer to get ready for bed. While brushing my teeth, I felt a heaviness lift off me just as I bent over the sink. The weight didn't come from off my shoulders, it came from within, as if it were being extracted from beneath my ribs upwards (descriptive words fail me - WHOOSH, maybe? only not sudden) through the top of my head. Ordinarily, I might have attributed it to being bent over and having the blood rush to my head, but that wasn't it. And it wasn't a reaction to the toothpaste. And I don't use Listerine, so no, I wasn't gettin' a buzz on. This was something else. Something amazing. I looked up and wondered aloud "Did I just forgive him?" Then peace just welled up in me. Oh! (cue the lightbulb) I just thought of an analogy: It was like a transfusion - out with the bad blood, in with the good. Yeah. Just like that.

God would not forgive me until I had forgiven him. This was not something I could do on my own, but once I confessed my unforgiving spirit, He took over from there, and all I had to do was let. it. go.

I don't know why that blew my mind, but it did. I even "tested" myself the next day just to be sure I hadn't been imagining it. I thought of some of the things my ex has said and done to me, and I didn't feel any animosity towards him - couldn't even conjure it up. Holy remission, Batman, I have been delivered!

Later that night, I was talking it over with the Lord, wondering what had kept me from giving it to Him sooner. You'd like to know, wouldn't you? Why, if it's that easy, do we make it so hard? My own words convicted me. Years before, I had said to my Sunday School class, "Who am I to think that I have any right to hold a grudge against anyone? Has anyone crucified my only child on a cross? If God can forgive us that, shouldn't we be willing to forgive anyone anything?" Yeah, ouch.

God stands ready, willing, and able to forgive us if we just ask. However, in order to receive it, we have to accept it. That's right, ACCEPT it. You can't give to others what you don't have. Had I not accepted His forgiveness? Hadn't I been carrying around a load of guilt and shame to remind me how unworthy I was to bear His name? You betcha. I had been the problem, not my ex.

God had been waiting a long time for me to lay down that load. I didn't lay it down all at once, but little by little, with each assurance He gave, the burden grew lighter and lighter. The more I trusted Him, the more I entrusted to Him. I had been learning to accept His forgiveness, and in the process, I learned to forgive.

I didn't even see it coming.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Mother's Day was good. I got a new computer (YAAY!), 2 new books by Beth Moore, and some dark chocolate. My younger daughter Sarah spent the weekend with my mom back home, and got to visit with her cousins and my grandmother. I'm happy about that, even though Lindsey and I couldn't be there (it's a 10-hour drive, she gets out of school this week and is going next weekend for the summer, and we can't afford to make the trip two weeks in a row.) Sarah enjoyed the visit very much and said she'd like to visit more often - score one for the home team!

I got a bit of bad news yesterday. When I told Sarah that we are coming down next weekend, she told me that's the weekend of her GT (gifted and talented) class trip. They are leaving Saturday and won't be back until Wednesday. Bummer. I won't get to see her. Lindsey's heart is set on going next weekend, and she's been looking forward to it all year. Not sure how we'll handle that.

On my way to work this morning, I got behind a dump truck with "Dump Bodies & Trailers" printed on the back. I was particularly intrigued by the "dump bodies" part, and to be honest, my ex came to mind. Not hatin', just statin'. He had sent Lindsey a card with some money to use for my mother's day gift. It was a nice card, and in it he actually reminded her to be respectful and obedient to her mother. However, when she talked to him on the phone, he told her "I don't hate your mother. I hate what she did, but I don't hate her." (I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying "Yeah I hate that I married him, too.") So he's still at it, trying to prove that he's the better person. Whatever. Lindsey said "Don't worry about it Mom. I know what he's doing, but it isn't going to work."

Anyway, normally I would be really upset about it, and it does make me very angry that he would do that to his children just to get back at me, but I am learning to take God at His word, which says in Jeremiah 31:16 -
This is what the LORD says: "Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded," declares the LORD. "They (your children) will return from the land of the enemy."

No, I'm not planning to dismember anyone. I just thought the dump truck sign was a funny way to be reminded of Romans 12:19 -
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

Don'tcha love God's sense of humor?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

No Small Miracle

My mother is a miracle. I'm not just saying that because Mother's Day is approaching. It's the truth, plain and simple.

In 1963, the year they were married, my parents were involved in a near-fatal car accident. A drunk driver ran their Volkswagen van off the road. Daddy's legs were broken and he had a concussion. Mother was thrown through the windshield and rendered unconscious. For 19 days, she remained comatose while Daddy recovered. She was 22 and pregnant with their first child. Her family kept vigil at the hospital waiting for the doctors to deliver the prognosis. Her lacerations and other injuries would heal in time, but her brain was damaged. She may never walk again, they said. She would never drive. She would never be able to teach again. She would need constant care and supervision.

When she regained consciousness, her parents and siblings were gathered around her, but she couldn't speak and couldn't remember their names. She would have to relearn everything - talking, walking, dressing and feeding herself. Her parents took her home with them after she was released from the hospital. They watched over her, cared for her, and tried to keep her from hurting herself, often reminding her "the doctor said you can't do that!" She was determined not to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair, and she hated being told there was anything she couldn't do.

She had been a straight-A student, had played basketball in high school, was named Best All Around and Most Likely to Succeed by her peers, and had been valedictorian. She was the first and only member of her family to attend college where she made the dean's list every year and graduated with top honors. She went on to teach business education, and two of her brothers were among her students. If anyone had ever told her there was something she couldn't do, she set out to prove them wrong.

Her mother most likely was frustrated with her strong will, and no doubt she was frustrated with her mother's attempts to keep her from doing things for herself. She continued to fight for her independence, and eventually won.

My mother gave birth to a healthy baby girl in March, 1964. I was born in March, 1966, and my younger sister in January, 1967. Mother filled our baby books with pictures, dates, accomplishments. She sewed clothes for us to wear. She kept us fed and managed the household finances. Thanks to her aunt, she even learned to drive. She taught us to read and write and instilled in us a love for learning. We moved to Little Rock in 1970 when Daddy went into business for himself. While my older sister was in school, my younger sister and I would accompany Mother to the preschool where she worked part-time. When I started first grade, Mother opened a kindergarten in our home. The following year, she discovered that she was expecting again. My brother was born in January, 1974.

Since the accident that should have ended her life, she has accomplished all of the things they said she would never do and more. She raised four kids, taught us to love the Lord, married us all off, and is now a doting grandmother of 12. She and my dad will celebrate their 43rd anniversary on May 31. In my book, that is no small miracle.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Pray for a Miracle

I just read the most beautiful testimony of a mother's love and faith in Sarah's heartfelt post at her blog, In the Midst of It. Please take time to read it - you will surely be blessed, and join me in prayer for Sarah and her family.

She's a Keeper

Lindsey, my 16-yr-old, is a princess. A diva. A snob. A royal button-pusher, born with a silver remote in her hand. She can agitate and aggravate like nobody's business. She's got lip and she's not afraid to give it.

Yes, she's a teenager - and has been since the age of five.

Which is why, when (in one of her ten-year-old made-for-the-big-screen-moments) she snapped "I WISH I were adopted!" I calmly replied, "You were, sweetie, but they brought you back."

I think we'll keep her.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Secret to Marital Bliss

My husband is perfect for me. He thinks I'm nuts for believing this. But he gets my warped humor, and he makes me laugh.

Before I landed The Best Job Ever, I had gone to work for a sister company to his place of employment. He and my then boss are well acquainted and are always trying to outwit each other.

This is the conversation between my boss and me my third day on the job:

Mr. C: "Ask your husband what the answer to my question was."

Me, looking puzzled: "What was the question?" (I thought maybe he had forgotten the answer and wanted me to call hubs and ask him again.)

Mr. C: "Just ask him what his answer was."

Me, shrugging: "OK."

Mr. C: "I asked him how in the world he got you to marry him."

Me, suspiciously: "Did he tell you I'm retarded?"

Mr. C, surprised: "Um, yeah, well I think his exact words were 'She's mildly retarded.'"

Now, people, I don't know which is funnier - the fact that he actually told my boss that, or the fact that I guessed what his answer had been. Either way, I still laugh when I think about it.

More recently, Hubs and I had been cranky with each other for over a week, though neither of us really knew why. Not really fighting, just generally disagreeable. Irritable. You know.

Finally, when he could no longer stand the tension, he came over, planted a kiss on my forehead, and said ever-so-sweetly "I'm sorry you're so bitchy lately."

I'm not sure what he thought I would say, or even what I wanted to say, but what I actually said was "I accept your apology."

Then we both burst out laughing.

No, the secret isn't sarcasm. It's laughter. Laugh with each other and at yourselves, but not at each other (which is only ok in cases of stupidity-on-purpose.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Works-For-Me Wednesday

I've done this with my girls since they were little, because it works for me. Each child has a laundry basket in her room. This is for her dirty laundry only - towels go in the "community" hamper. When the basket is full, it's time to do a load. Anything not in the basket will not be washed by me. As a result, we've had very few items of clothing come up missing, including socks. Except the items that have migrated away from home in someone else's overnight bag or somehow forgot to put themselves back in their luggage, and the ones they've loaned out or given away or traded, but we don't wanna talk about that right now.

They've been doing their own laundry now for years, ever since they grew tall enough to reach the washer settings.

This has saved me loads of time and energy (pun intended).

Got a handy-dandy tip you'd like to share? Wanna see more great ideas? Go see Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer - you'll love her site!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Just for Grins

Stop me if you've heard this....

A priest, a minister, and a rabbi walk into a bar.
The bartender takes one look at them and says,
"What is this? Some kind of joke?"

Monday, May 08, 2006

Makeover Madness

Hello, blog fans. In case you're thinking "Something's different about you. Have you lost weight?" unfortunately, that's not it.

Somebody out there somewhere has lost a few pounds, though. I know because I've found them, and I just don't feel right keeping them. If you know anybody in need of a pair of saddlebags, please let me know, otherwise I plan to burn them. Blogging burns calories, right?

No, I didn't get a makeover, but my blog did. Some of you got that right off the bat, didn't you? Thanks for noticin'. My old template was a little hard on the eyes, so I got a mo' betta one. Hope you like the changes.

Not only that, but I started another blog as well. A Heart Like Water is more of a prayer journal. You're welcome to check it out and leave a note or request if you feel inclined to do so.

Thank you for visiting my blog!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Sunday Silliness

On the way home from church, we got into a discussion about how the Pope gets his name. Out of the blue, no idea where it came from. My husband, Carl, explained that he gets to choose his name. One of the kids then suggested that he should choose a cool name. Carl asked, "What name would you choose if you were elected Pope?"

Andrew said "Pope Daddy"
Emily said "Pope O'Gigio"
Carl said "Pope Alicious"
I said "POprah"

Several other suggestions were tossed around, like "Pope Arama", "Pope Eroni", and my personal favorite (courtesy of Andrew) "Pope Ourri".

Proof that insanity is hereditary - we get it from our kids.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Beyond the Shadow of Doubt

This is a bit of background to my "Why am I Here?" story. More aptly titled "Am I Where I Should Be? Part II" perhaps? Whatever.

I've been here going on 2 years. Although it was a painful decision to pick up and leave my home, I knew that God had better plans than I could imagine, so I was excited to begin this new chapter in my life. My children didn't share my enthusiasm. They did not want to leave their friends, and they didn't want to change schools. I didn't want to leave them behind, but their dad didn't want to let them go. We agreed that it was better to work out an arrangement ourselves than to fight in court.

I offered to allow the kids to stay with him for the summer and to come live with me for the school year. They would have every holiday and every school break with him, and I would bring them to visit him at least one weekend a month. He was welcome to come any time to visit them as well, or I would meet him halfway. They would have daily contact by phone, email, and instant messaging. His counteroffer was not as generous - to let them come for part of the summer, half the holidays and school breaks, only one weekend a month, and since I created the distance it would be up to me to provide all the transportation.

I don't know what the outcome might have been had we gone to court, but I knew that he was prepared to lie and deny the truth. He was more interested in exacting revenge than in determining the best interest of the children. I know the kids would have been allowed to state their preference, but how much weight it would carry in influencing the judge's decision was anybody's guess. The judge is a pastor. He's also a distant relative (married to my 2nd cousin). There may have been a pretty good chance of a ruling in my favor, but I still would have had to fight dirty - I certainly had enough ammunition. It would have been ugly, and the potential damage to the kids was not worth having my day in court.

We finally came to the decision that they would come with me for the whole summer and go back for the school year, and he reluctantly agreed to allow me the same visitation that I had offered him. I would provide all the transportation because he adamantly refused to cooperate and make "my sordid life any easier after what I had put him through." However, I did get him to agree to meet halfway if necessary.

What he didn't know was that I was not cowering down to him. His threats to destroy me in court didn't scare me off. I had told him about my dream, but the significance of it eluded him. As far as he was concerned, he had won. He had power, and he would wield it recklessly.

That first summer went by quickly. My husband insisted that I stay home with the girls so that I could have as much time with them as possible. We visited churches in the area to find one with a youth group they could get involved in. It was a chore to get them to go at all. They weren't interested in making friends here because they were only here for the summer and they missed their friends back home. We didn't force the issue. It seemed hopeless. They didn't like it here, didn't want to be here, and they didn't want to try. Just before it was time for them to go back to school, we found a church they were comfortable with. They enjoyed the youth group and made a few new friends. Then it was time to let them go.

The next several months would be trying. God knew this and saw that I needed Him to bolster my faith. I was without a job, and I needed one fast. Two opportunities opened up. One paid more than the other and offered more benefits. That's the one I wanted. The other was next door to where my husband worked. I interviewed for both positions and waited. My husband and I calculated our expenses and determined the minimum salary I would need to keep us going. The second position was offered to me at exactly the salary we had decided we needed, then I had a 2nd interview for the better position. I wasn't sure whether to wait and see about it or take the one that was offered. Shoulda known - I mean, the salary was EXACTLY WHAT WE NEEDED! - but I hesitated. I prayed that I would make the right choice. Finally, I decided to accept the job.

I discovered that the owner of the company is a Christian, as is the mananger, and the office manager, and the clerk. I was thrilled! When I got home after my first day on the job, there was a message on the answering machine from the other employer saying they had closed the position. Not filled it, but removed it from their roster. Another confirmation, just to remind me that I never had any reason to doubt.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Freakish Friday

In case you were wondering if I could possibly be any weirder...yeah, I have this telepathy thing going on, and I knew that you were... I realized there are a few things I left off my list.

I won't bother to number them, so nobody gets hurt.

*I've never been a first wife.

*My ex-wife-in-law (hubby's ex) and I are friends.

*I have an uncanny ability to remember social security numbers - not just mine, but hubby's, daughters', sister's, ex-boyfriends', ex-hubby's, and some people I don't even know (work related) - but I can't freakin' remember to call the orthodontist's office to have them draft the payment before the 15th of the month!

*I'm right-handed in everything but archery and soccer <--- HA! (that was just for kicks, but the archery thing is true.) I kill me.

*I'm funnier than most people think I am.

*I just laughed out loud at myself.

*There are 6 letters in my first name, 6 in my middle name, and 6 in my last name.

Is that scary or what?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Please Pray for My Prodigal

I have a 16 yr old daughter, Lindsey, who lives with me and hubby in Georgia and a 14 yr old daughter, Sarah, who lives in Arkansas with their dad. (Someday, I will share the story behind this.)

Sarah's dad took her cell phone away for several weeks because she had gone over her limit in minutes and text messages. This was my only way to contact her, other than snail mail, which I've used but she hasn't. During the time she was without a phone, I was able to talk with her a few times when Lindsey would call their dad and ask to speak to Sarah. He finally gave her phone back last weekend, but he has restricted her use of it. She can only use it before 9 pm. This makes no sense to me whatsoever, because after 9, the minutes are free! I asked her why, and she has no idea either.

I'm a rational woman, for the most part, and I always try to see both sides before jumping to conclusions. I have tried see the logic here, but it's beyond me. I thought, ok, maybe he's trying to get her to be more responsible with her phone, maybe being aware that any time spent on the phone eats into her available minutes will cause her to use it less. That does make sense, doesn't it? But what happens if she still exceeds her minutes? She's a teenager, and it's bound to happen. I mean, the problem wasn't the after 9 usage when the minutes are unlimited, the problem was the before 9 usage. I certainly am not insisting that she should be allowed to talk on the phone whenever she wants, and I agree wholeheartedly that there should be limits. So why am I upset over this?

This morning on my way to work, I called and left her a message. As soon as I disconnected, a sudden realization hit me. Aversion therapy! In order to check her messages, she'll have to use her minutes. Every time I call her, it uses her minutes. Every time she calls me (which is already rare enough) will use her minutes. She will be even more reluctant to call me now, since she doesn't want to lose her phone again. I hope I'm wrong, and I know there's nothing I can do about it either way, but my gut tells me I'm right.

I'm praying that his plan will backfire, and that limited access to her mother will fuel in her a desire for more. Please pray for my prodigal and her parents.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I Am (Meme)

What's a meme, you ask? I like the blog definition better: Me! Me!
Anyway, I've been tagged by BooMama for this one, so here goes:

I am - deeply in love with my husband.
I want - my children to understand the importance of obedience to God.
I wish - we could have more kids.
I hate - abuse of children and abuse of power.
I miss - my kids' toddler years.
I hear - life begins at 40.
I wonder - how anyone could not believe in God.
I regret - my first marriage.
I am not - a typical woman.
I dance - like a spaz.
I sing - most of the time.
I cry - at church, at weddings, at funerals, at movies, and at random acts of kindness.
I am not always - serious.
I make - quilts from worn-out jeans.
I write - the way I speak.
I confuse - my husband, who still hasn't got me figured out.
I need - to read my Bible more, exercise, get more sleep
I should - call my mom more often.
I start - too many projects at once.
I finish - very few projects I start.

Consider yourself tagged!

My Man's Meatloaf

Just thought I'd share my easy, squeezy meatloaf recipe.

I use:
2 lbs lean ground beef
2 eggs
1 envelope vegetable soup mix (Knorr's is all I've been able to find recently, but I prefer Campbell's)
1 generous cup savory herbs stuffing mix (more or less, depending upon the leanness of ground beef)
1 gallon size ziploc bag

Preheat oven to 350ยบ F, place all ingredients in bag, zip, and knead until thoroughly mixed.
Shape into loaf, place in loaf pan, bake for 45 min - 1 hour.

It's quick, tasty, and cleanup is easy.

Please let me know how you like it if you try it.

Works-For-Me Wednesday

Playing along with Shannon from Rocks In My Dryer .

My husband likes meatloaf. He loves my meatloaf. I love my husband, and I like to make meatloaf for him, but I hate putting my hands in it, and it just doesn't mix well with a spoon. The last time I had made it, I tried putting sandwich bags on my hands, and it actually worked pretty well for keeping my hands from getting yucky, but I still had a slimy mixing bowl to contend with.

We had meatloaf again Monday, and I took my idea a step further. Gallon sized ziplock bags! Put all your ingredients in, press most of the air out, zip, and squish, squeeze, or knead until ingredients are thoroughly mixed. You can even shape it while it's still in the bag, turn it out into the loaf pan, and pop it into the oven.
No muss, no fuss! Am I a genius or what?

For more great ideas, go here.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Why Am I Here? Part II

Read Part I here.

Ah, surrender... I knew about that. I had done that all my life. I had given up my purity to a high-school sweetheart who would eventually abuse me. I had given away my dignity to subsequent boyfriends and a couple of one-night-stands who were done with me after they'd used me. I had forfeited my life, my identity, to a man who treated me like property and walked all over me. Hadn't I surrendered my children to him as well? I couldn't just give up on them!

Like Lot, I had compromised my testimony. I had made one huge mistake after another, I had trampled the blood of my Savior beneath my feet, and now I was certain that there would be a special place in Hell for me for having chosen that man to father my children. I was angry, frustrated, bitter, and oh so confused.

Can you hear my Father's heart breaking?

I had been so sure that I was finally on the right track; but like Lot's wife, I kept looking back. Why did I marry him? Why didn't I kill him? (What? Like the thought wouldn't have crossed your mind. Yes, I've thought it, and I've repented - every time!) Why didn't I fight?

Oh. Yeah. That. Obedience.

OK, so what's with all the doubt? Where is that coming from? (cue Churchlady voice) Could it be... Satan?

Whoa. You coulda knocked me over with. . . um, a pitchfork. Suddenly, I understood.

I was trying to fight a battle that was not mine to fight. 2 Chronicles 20:15

All the pain and grief that I had suffered, that I would ever suffer, was nothing compared to what my Savior had endured on the cross for me. How much deeper had I driven those nails with my foolishness? I had never been victorious in battle because I had been powerless, acting of my own accord, and I had surrendered unnecessarily to the enemy that He has defeated! I had accepted Christ as my Savior 25 years ago, and I was still wandering in the wilderness because I had never actually, sincerely, asked Him to be Lord of my life. There would be no victory for me until I surrendered my will completely to Him.

Lord, have mercy on my soul. It's a wonder I didn't drown in my tears that night. I was broken. I prayed the words of Psalm 51:10-17 and asked Him to prepare me to accept His will.

[I know now why I'm here. It was revealed to me last week as I was contemplating writing about it. I will divulge the reason, hopefully in my next post. I'm just so excited about how God is working that I feel compelled to share it. I did explain it to Sarah, but she still doesn't get it. Yet.]

Monday, May 01, 2006

Comic Relief

Thought I'd post a few family funnies just for grins.

I began early teaching the girls about water and energy conservation. I knew Lindsey, who was 4, had grasped the concept when I called her into the kitchen to help unload the dishwasher. She came to the doorway and said, "But Mom, the TV's on in the living room, and we're wasting cable."

Andrew, 7, and Emily, 9, were discussing reproduction. She asked "Do you know where babies come from?" He said, "Of course. The man's sperm mixes with the woman's eggs in her tummy."
She asked, "How does it get there?" He said, "She swallows it, stupid!"

The first Christmas after their dad and I divorced, I said to the girls, "Well, now we can start all new traditions."
Sarah, 10, said, "Like, Hannukah?"

Please share some of your own.

Why Am I Here? Part I

I often find myself trying to explain to my younger daughter, Sarah, why I can't just move back to Arkansas. How can I expect her to "get" it at 14 when I didn't "get" it until I was almost 40? It's about obedience, discernment, patience, and a whole lot of other things that are just beyond her comprehension at this point. It doesn't help that her dad isn't the least bit concerned about her spiritual growth. "Dad said God didn't sell your house, the realtor did." That sort of thing.

Anyway, try as I might, I haven't been able to give her a specific reason. I mean, I know God wants me here, but why? She points out that I gave up my house, my new lawnmower, and my new grill to live in an older house with less room and fewer closets. I point out that all those things are material, and He wants us to store up treasures in heaven, not here on earth. Couldn't we have just given all of our stuff away? Did we have to move? As it turns out, yes we did.

First of all, I have to admit that I didn't want to send my kids back to their dad for the school year, but they weren't ready for the move, and since I had been clearly instructed not to fight over them, I knew I would have to let them go. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I do not trust him (for reasons that I shall not go into at the moment), and I worried constantly. I had never been a worrier, but this was so much bigger than me. Nagging doubt plagued me. Had I done the right thing? How could I in good conscience send my kids into enemy territory? This can't possibly be what God wants! You call yourself a mother? Satan had himself a heyday.

Lesson one: Let go and let God.

Hadn't I told my children when they were young that our God is so BIG that they had no reason to fear anything or worry that He couldn't handle it? Did I not believe this myself? In fact, during thunderstorms, I would comfort them by telling them that thunder is just God's way of reminding us how big He is. Then when the thunder rumbled and the windows rattled we'd say aloud "we hear you, God." Now here I was in the midst of this HUGE storm holding up this flimsy umbrella that I called faith. I definiteIy needed a bigger umbrella. (I hear you, God.) I would have rather had lightning strike my ex, and I admit to having requested that a few times, but that isn't what God had in mind. Nope, not at all. Instead, He was going to teach me to trust Him. Really trust Him. In. All. Things.

I began to pray like I'd never prayed before. I wanted to know why He brought me here. He said "Wait and see." Sheesh! The patience thing, again? I wanted Him to show me what I was supposed to do. He said "Trust me." I wish I could say that I immediately said, "Here. Take it. It's too big for me, and I can't handle it. It's all Yours." People, please. We're talking about me here, so you know that's not what happened.

Then my older daughter, Lindsey, called me. Things were not good. (cue the lightbulb) It was going to get worse before it got better. The enemy was surrounding, and my hands were tied. It was time to surrender.