Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why 33 is a Great Age

I've decided to take a new approach to birthdays. I doubt you'll find it groundbreaking or anything, but here it is. I think I'll be happy about them. Some would say 33 is young, some think it sounds old. It's all in your perspective (meaning how old you are yourself). It's funny how our outlook on birthdays change. When we're 8, we think we'll NEVER be 16 and able to drive a car. When we're 16, we think we'll NEVER be done with school or actually getting married to Mr. Right. When we're 21, we think life should be beginning pretty soon. When we're 25, we're pretty content. Then comes the approach of the big 3-0, and suddenly things look very different.

In my experience, after 25 we begin to realize that "life" isn't out there in the future anymore. We're not waiting to grow up or graduate or get married. We've done all that, and maybe even had a kid or two, and life is now. It's quickly slipping by while you're looking down the road expectantly. Then you realize, many of the milestones of life have actually already passed you by. You've been alive for three decades and seen the world and the people around you change a lot, and it dawns on you that life flies by. At this point, you can start to freak out or at least be bummed with every passing birthday, or you can start to celebrate the blessings of your past and look forward to those in your future.

So, from now on, I won't complain about how old I'm getting (or I'll try not to) or worry about how quickly 40 is approaching or the new wrinkles I'm starting to see. I'll just see birthdays as a chance to thank God for many years of life and blessings and celebrate the fact that I'm one year closer to heaven.

Having been 33 years old for almost 24 hours now, I've already noticed some things about this great age:

1) The best way you could start your 34th year of life is to be awakened by a 5-year-old little boy standing by your bed singing Happy Birthday.

2) It's awesome to be on Facebook, because you feel very loved and thought of when 68ish people wish you Happy Birthday. (What is it about someone seeing your name in the birthday list on the sidebar and taking five seconds to type Happy Birthday that puts a smile on your face? Or is it just me?)

3) Smoothie Joe's has really great chicken salad. (I already knew that, but it was reconfirmed to me today.)

4) Hearing a 2-year-old sing Happy Birthday is just so darn cute.

5) You can't beat a quiet afternoon reading a "just for fun" book and then drifting off into a nice nap.

6) There could probably be worse ways to spend your birthday evening than two hours of soccer practice.

7) There are still dirty dishes, meals to fix, and laundry on your birthday.

8) It's hard to beat a birthday lunch with your mom followed by a sweet phone call from your daddy.

9) I like our (the kids') new subtly animal-themed bathroom, complete with animal paintings from Africa itself, that I decorated with my birthday money. (When it's completely done, I'll post pictures.)

10) God is on His throne and has loved me completely and unconditionally since before the beginning of time...not just for 33 measly years.

I wish you all a happy birthday, whenever that day rolls around. (Does that count as remembering your birthday? Because, frankly, I stink at that.)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Who Knew I Was Insecure?

Yesterday, I was blessed to get the chance to go to the Beth Moore simulcast So Long, Insecurity with three other friends. Thankfully, we didn't get blown away by a tornado at any point during the day, and Chris and the kids survived the day with only one boo-boo. One of my friends had invited me to go, and I said yes mainly because I've attended one other Beth Moore event and it was very impactful for me. I don't read a lot of her books or do a lot of her Bible studies because I'm always involved in Community Bible Study, which takes most of my formal Bible study time. (Pretty sure I just set the record for how many times I could use "Bible study" in one sentence.) But, of course, I'm glad I went because I took away some great spiritual wisdom, and we had an absolutely delicious lunch of chicken salad, broccoli salad, and banana pudding. Naturally, I place MUCH more value on the spiritual side of things, though! :)

I hadn't really thought much about the topic of insecurity leading up to the event, so the main thing I really took away from it is that I'm a pretty insecure person. Who knew? It really just helped me label many things I deal with as "insecurity," which, in turn, will hopefully help me learn how to deal with them. Some examples of insecurity rearing its head in my life are: 1) The way I go over and over in my head all the things I said and did in a conversation I just had. It's really annoying. I replay the whole thing and analyze everything I've said and the manner in which I said it, looking for things that could have been taken the wrong way, were inappropriate, or were just plain stupid. I'm worried what the other person thought of me! 2) The way I doubt everything I ever think God says to me. I have those moments when I'm sure it's Him speaking, but about five minutes later I begin the process of telling myself I just made it up and He surely wouldn't be speaking to me! 3) The way I'm too chicken to do the things I'm not so sure God said because I feel inadequate or worry what others will think. 4) The way I compare myself to others, especially other moms, to see how I'm measuring up.

Okay, I could go on, but you get the idea. The point of saying all that is not to reveal my complete insanity or to force anyone to say encouraging things to me...it's just to point out some real-life ways that insecurity can paralyze or debilitate us. It's the enemy's tool to make us ineffective for God, and in its most basic form is disbelief of God and pride. We must realize and come to fully believe that we are COMPLETELY forgiven by God for things in our distant and not-so-distant past, that we are UNCONDITIONALLY and UNCEASINGLY loved by God and that God has a purpose and calling for our lives. Once we honestly come to believe these truths (which sound simple, but aren't really), we must begin to live them out, even if we don't yet FEEL them. As our minds become imbedded with His Truth, we make decisions to change our actions, and then, eventually, our emotions will follow.

The two main reasons I feel compelled to live a life secure in Christ and completely free from the bondage of insecurity are to bring God glory by being an effective member of His kingdom and to be an example to my daughter of one who is living free from the expectations of society and other people (even her parents) and totally secure in who I am in Christ. One final tidbit: I loved the illustration of our "love cup." (My friend Beth didn't actually call it that, but I think it works.)We all have a cup that we need to be filled up with love. We spend much of our lives as women holding our empty (or only half-full cup) out for others to fill up. When others don't give us the love and approval we need, which they'll never be able to do, we become embittered and insecure with who we are and our worth. But when we've allowed Christ to totally satisfy our need for love and acceptance, we go out into our day with a cup not needing to be filled but always spilling out its overflowing love on others. We are free to NOT be pridefully focused on ourselves and instead to look outward and begin to share the love of Christ with others who need their cup filled. We are free to show love and grace, even to those we deem unworthy, because we know we have been shown love and grace, though we were unworthy.

Even today, I've been struggling to put off my old, insecure self, and put on my new identity in Christ. But I pray I'll continue to make that decision each and every day until Christ has transformed me into a woman who is not always seeking the love and acceptance of others, but who is comfortable and confident in her love and acceptance by the only One who truly matters.

Ephesians 4: 22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This has been a rough mommy week for me, and not a much better wife week. I could probably say that about every week, but it's especially true this week. I'm pretty sure I'm the meanest mom on the planet. My kids would probably agree. It just seems like my one and only role has been drill sargeant, or maybe it's referee, or even arbiter. Okay, maybe I've had more than one role, but the point is that it hasn't been a fun one. Endless arguments and tantrums and screaming and melodramatic tears seem to be the name of the game. And in those hard moments, I cannot even fathom adding another one into the mix. Only by the grace of God.

My one pathetic attempt at breaking from our mundane weekday routine and having some fun was a complete bust and sent this pregnant girl home in embarassing tears, wondering, "Why do I even try?" and listening to the unhappy screams of a toddler who was denied a trip to the park. I'm not even trying to have a pity party here, just relaying the not-so-fun events of my week to this point. (I did, however, win first prize at bunco Monday night while my sweet mom and tired husband tag-teamed in a house full of crazy, hyper kids.)

But, despite all the tears and tantrums, I find myself thankful. Because I know, as hard as some days are, I have much to be thankful for and my life is pretty much a cake walk. One particular thing that has been on my mind is just the privilege of being able to go outside and feel the warm spring sunshine and the refreshing spring breeze on my skin. One of the blogs I read is written by this woman who has a terrible, debilitating disease that has even caused her such severe allergies that she cannot leave her condo. Ever. She lives alone with her little dog and is in constant pain, but her outlook on life is amazing. But, one day in this post, she admitted she was having a hard time with not being able to go outside and enjoy spring. Ever since then, I've been trying to drink in the experience of going outside, turning my face to the sun, listening to the sound of the birds, and just enjoying God's creation. I'm totally not an outside girl, but once you think of it being taken from you for the rest of your time on earth, it gives you a new appreciation for it.

All that to say, my life ain't so bad. And in the midst of all the daily struggles of life in general, I'm trying to appreciate the sun, the wind, the flowers, and God's grace. And I get to go to bunco again tomorrow night. What more could a girl ask for?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Metamorphosis

Profound Change. Tranformation. Complete Change in Appearance or Form.

Change is an interesting thing. We are surrounded by it in nature and in our own lives. It is said that the only certainty in life is change. Yet it surprises us so often. And so many of us hate it. We live in fear of bad changes and never expecting good ones. We take our lives, our circumstances and those around us at face value, never thinking that the next day everything could look totally different.

We serve a God who does not change like shifting shadows, yet works constantly through changes. His goal for us is change. Transformation. Metamorphosis. Yet, He wants us to be steady and unchanging as He is.

It all seems puzzling and contradictory. But doesn't God always seem to be full of contradictions? Yet He is always the same. He never fails. He never changes Who He is. That brings us to the word paradox, but we'll leave that one for another day.

I, personally, am someone who hates change. I don't particularly care for suprises and I struggle to have any spark of spontaneity in my life. I like steady, predictable, safe. But I also assume, being the pessimist that I am, that people or bad situations will never change. Like so many people, I look at others who seem so opposed to God and think, "Well, they will never change. There's no hope for them." I may not say it aloud, because that wouldn't seem very Godly, but in my heart I think it. I pray for people or situations or even my own heart, but I don't really expect transformation to occur. But it should not be that way.

God's Word is FULL of people who were unexpected. You never know how people will turn out. Appearances are deceiving. It seems that God thrives on taking the hopeless or the unassuming....the last one we would pick...and tranforming them or their situations into something amazing. All we have to do is step out our front doors to see the changes He performs all around us that are physical examples of His goal for each of His children. The unassuming, chubby, earth-bound caterpillar crawls into a brown blob, only to emerge looking totally unlike his former self. In a matter of days, a dead stick of a tree becomes a flower-filled dogwood. The storm clouds clear to reveal a beautiful, sun-streaked blue sky behind them.

Things are not always what they seem once God has His way. In Genesis, take a look at the beginnings of God's chosen people, Israel. Despite being a member of the patriarchal family, Joseph's circumstances went from bad to worse. Hopeless. How else would it look through the world's eyes? Yet God was just performing a change. A transformation. A metamorphosis. Through a scary, unsettling, and apparently unfair series of events, He was changing a spoiled, pampered boy into a Godly man of perseverance and leader of a nation. He was changing a cruel, selfish group of brothers into men of sacrifice and integrity. He was changing a disfunctional family into a holy, chosen nation.

In the gospel of John, think of Jesus' first miracle. He took something ordinary and transformed it into something lavish. The water became wine. The mundane became the best of the best.

Look at God's chosen king of Israel, David. He was the youngest, the smallest, the shepherd rather than the warrior. But God had big plans. Over the course of many years and much fear and heartache, He transformed the lowly shepherd boy into a mighty and honored king.

Take the mighty man of God - Paul. How did he start out? Self-righteous. Prideful. Arrogant. Cruel. Totally missing the boat on Who God is. But through a blinding light and a radical experience with Christ, the spiritually blind Saul's eyes were opened and he was transformed. What words can describe who he became? Sold-out. Passionate. A lover of God's truth. Totally focused on Christ.

And take the crowning example of them all. A man - bruised, battered, bloody, crucified, dead. The end of a movement. The end of the hope of His disciples and even the world. A quiet, motionless tomb. The victory of the enemy. Or so it would seem. But then light and life emerged. What seemed to be the end was simply the beginning. God had a plan all along - a plan greater than we could ever have imagined.

If God were to let all things remain the same, we would find ourselves in a sad state of affairs. Lives would remain broken and hopeless. Hearts would remain sinful and empty. Families would remain fractured and painful. The truth is the One who never changes uses changes to produce change. So many times, our change in circumstances (even - and especially - the bad ones) is the very tool that God uses to change our hearts and our lives for the better. The caterpillar must crawl into the dark, lonely, quiet cocoon if he ever wants to emerge as a magnificent butterfly, ready to fly and declare God's glory by his mere existence and appearance.

Whether we are looking for transformation in our own lives or wondering if someone else we know will ever "get it together" or see God's truth and be transformed by it, remember that God is in the business of change. I think He loves nothing more than revealing His glory by taking what appears to be hopelessly broken and ready for the garbage heap and, by the power of His Spirit, the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, complete a metamorphosis into something new, beautiful, and breathtaking.

We serve a God who does not change like shifting shadows but, by His grace, changes us.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Calgon, Take Me Away

I was just looking through tadpole orders, and I saw one from someone in Savannah, GA. My mind wandered dreamily back to fun, relaxing girls' trips filled with leisurely walks, good food cooked by someone other than myself, and no screaming. All I could do was sigh wistfully as my ears tried to ignore the screams coming from the other side of my house. Why must night time be so crazy? Is it bad that I just want to put in my ipod ear buds, close the door, and lose myself in a good book? I can't seem to muster up any sympathy for the zillionth boo-boo of the day or drag myself away from tadpole emails and the relative solitude of my bedroom to see if one lone daddy needs some assistance, even though I know he'll read this tomorrow and know what I was up to. (Love you! :) )

Well, two of the loud ones have found their way in here (with sweet smiles and kisses instead of screaming) and I have one thick head of wet hair to dry so one second-grader can get in bed. Then maybe I'll check out that book...

(Just so you know, I wouldn't really trade all this craziness for anything. But a weekend away would still be fun.)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Passionate Pursuit

I just love those little nuggets God gives us as we read through His Word. In our Bible study, we spend a year memorizing one passage of Scripture to share with the rest of the group at our last meeting of the year. In the past, I have been on top of it. I learned my verse each week and practiced, practiced, practiced. This year, however, I've been a big old slacker! Shame on me. Honestly, I just kept forgetting. How pathetic is that? So, with just a few weeks left until the big day, I finally decided I should put forth some serious effort and finish well.

Our passage this year is Genesis 3:1-19. It's kind of interesting because it's a narrative. We're just memorizing a story from Scripture, which seems like it would be easy enough. Easy enough, that is, for someone whose brain cells have not been greatly diminished by over eight years of pregnancy and parenting. (This excuse would be great if only every other woman in my group didn't have, on average, four kids of their own.) As I was trying to pound the words into my feeble brain, something sweet just jumped out at me from the familiar passage.

How does the Holy Spirit do that? It's just so cool! How can I read something that I've read dozens of times before and suddenly see something fresh?

Honestly, it's kind of a depressing part of Scripture. It's basically where everything about humanity goes down the tubes. We've made it three chapters into the existence of the world, and we're already making a mess of things. We open with the evil deceiver, followed by bone-headed humans, and closed with some not-so-fun curses from Almighty God. Not exactly encouraging words for the day. But tucked right in the middle of all the unhappy mess is this beautiful nugget:

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"

I love it. Here we have the LORD God asking a mere man where he is. Do you not think the LORD God knows exactly where the naughty couple is hiding? Is he not aware that the fall of man has just occurred? I think we can safely say He's on top of things. So, why the question? Well, it certainly gives the man a chance to fess up. God asks us to confess our sins before Him. We have to acknowledge our wrong before we/He can make it right.

But reading it this time, I was impacted by the fact that God sought them out. He didn't come in a thundercloud and scream for them to report front and center. He didn't shake the earth and strike them dead. He called to them. "Where are you? I'm looking for you. I want to talk to you." God seeks us out. We hear a lot of talk about people seeking God, but if He didn't first seek us, we would not ever be able to find Him. We've all made a mess of our lives and we all try to hide from God, but He comes gently seeking us out of love. He comes seeking a relationship with His fallen creation. Sure, there are consequences to follow, but there is love and hope as well. We are pursued by a kind and loving Savior who just wants us to find restoration in Him. What an amazing God we have. Just in all His ways, yet full of astounding, pursuing grace.

Romans 5: 16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Happy Holy-day


I hope you and your family had a very Happy Easter. We certainly did...


well, most of us, anyway. Jack had some sad moments that just happened to coincide with the photography session, of course. But after his tummy got full, his heart was happy.


Maddie was as sweet as sugar, and Luke was as wild as ever. It seems our efforts at a decent picture of all three of them failed. Oh, well. All you can do is try.

Luke even gave it a try. But he seemed to have a little problem with his aim.



Our Easter Sunday was pretty low-key, but after some reflection on our weekend, I think it was really what holidays should be. I was part of a discussion with a friend who was saying she tried to make Easter a really big deal in her family...as big a deal as Christmas. I totally see her logic, but in some ways, I wish Christmas was more like Easter.

In our home, there was no mention of the Easter Bunny. We didn't make it an issue, but the kids never brought it up. However, we fought the Santa Claus battle this year and lost, with Jack at least. At Christmas, it seems we are constantly having to try to bring the focus off of presents and parties and back to Jesus. But at Easter, the focus of our celebration is on Christ and all the eggs and baskets seem to just be a fun, but small, part of the whole thing.

At Easter, I seem to be able to take time out during Holy Week to read in the gospels, reflect on Christ's sacrifice, and rejoice at His resurrection. While we celebrate Christmas for a whole month, I find it very hard in all the hustle and bustle to find time to sit, reflect, and rejoice over the true purpose of it all. When Easter rolls around, we may have spent a little on Easter clothes (well, Nana may have) and a few goodies for the baskets, but it is nothing compared the time and money we invest in Christmas. And we don't even buy many gifts compared to most people.

I guess this Easter was just a sweet day with our family and a week of talking and celebrating what Christ has done for us. It was focused on Christ, it was relaxing and fun, and it was topped off by a worship service at the Lovelady Center that evening. (And I was excited we made Resurrection Rolls! I am usually terrible at cute and meaningful holiday traditions, and technically we did it on Monday, but still!) It just couldn't have been a better day. Well, it would have been nice to have all of our family there, but we did get to play with Matthew and Emily on Good Friday and will see Grandma and Grandpa this weekend.



Friday afternoon was spent in great egg hunt fun.


Jack and Maddie were just a tiny bit competitive.

Luke, however, preferred to take a more relaxed approach.





And, eventually, he just decided to brush up on his badminton skills.


After the thrill of the hunt was over, it was time to enjoy the spoils of victory. MONEY!



And where was I during all this egg-hunting hoopla? Where else? Sitting lazily on the porch. I did feel a little guilty, but everybody else seemed to have things covered.


I pray that we will have many more holidays just as wonderful, meaningul, and fun as this one was.










Thursday, April 1, 2010

But, Mommy!

What can I say about Jack? He's a character, that's for sure. One of a kind. He can be a wonderful little helper, can have us in stitches of laughter, and is as smart as a whip. And, boy, does he have a mind of his own...a very persistent mind - and mouth. He can exhaust me quicker than any other person on this planet with his running commentary on life. Jack has a lot to say and never enough time to say it in. His comments and questions entertain, exasperate, challenge, and - like I said - exhaust. He really is the life of our little family.

One thing is for sure with this little guy. If I ever have a suggestion, subtle or not so subtle, he is sure to make his mind up to do the exact opposite. For instance, last night we were at the book fair at Jack's school. Any of you who are familiar with book fairs know that there is always a plethora of books to choose from and your child is always sure to pick the one book you don't want them to buy. So, we're browsing through the colorful and fun choices and I, like an idiot, begin to make suggestions. Well, naturally, as soon as I point to a book, he loses all interest. We continue like this for a little while and then I begin to pressure him to decide.


His eyes lock on a book with a shark on the cover and he grabs it. However, upon opening the book, it does have colorful and cartoonish illustrations which include some bugs. One in particular is a close-up of an icky-looking spider, a creature that Jack loathes and cannot stand the sight of. I chime in with, "You probably shouldn't get this. You won't like the bugs." I then proceed to point to a very cute and entertaining book still on the shelf. That sealed the deal. The dreaded, "But, Mommy!" ensued and he HAD to get the shark/bug book immediately. I tried a while longer to persuade him to get something else, but Jack, once his mind is set and it is in total disagreement with a parent, WILL NOT WAVER. It was his money, so he paid and we went on our merry little way.
Chris read the book to him once before we left the church and Jack was thrilled with it. Apparently, mom is dumb and knows nothing and everything is a success. However, a few moments later, Jack and I are waiting in the dark van outside for the rest of our family to arrive so we can leave. We are sitting calmly when I hear a sudden scream. Now, I'm talking a scream that made me think bigfoot was about to attack the car or something. I turn just in time to see Jack's whole body jump, throwing the book in the floor, and him begin to cry loudly and uncontrollably. First thought - he's been bitten by something (you know, like a snake or wasp). Next - okay, maybe it's a bad paper cut (Jack is a bit dramatic, so that could fit the bill). I try to get him to calm down and tell me what's wrong, and he finally gets out in that crying voice that's so hard to interpret: "I turned to the page with the spider and it scared me!"

Now, most mothers would feel bad for their terribly frightened child. I, however, could not look at him or talk to him because I could not quit laughing. Once he calmed down (it was not immediate, or even quick), he began to try to convince me to let him go back in and trade the book for one devoid of all spiders. Being the mean mom I am, I decided to let it be a lesson we could all look back on and learn from in the future. "Jack, if you would listen to me from time to time, you might find that I actually know what I'm talking about. I tried to warn you, you stubbornly refused to listen, and now you have to keep that book." I know, mean, mean, mean.


In all the lessons Jack is forced to learn each day by his unsympathetic mother, God is always whispering the same lesson in that very mother's ear. It's annoying, really. Here I am trying to have a very motherly, wise moment of teaching or disciplining my child, and all the while I am being disciplined or taught as well. In this case, the Holy Spirit is echoing my words. "Amy, I'm always trying to tell you things and you stubbornly refuse to listen. Maybe one of these days you'll realize I'm God and I know a few more things than you and have a better plan than you." Ouch. I've decided that all the lessons Jack has to endure are my fault. He's God's teaching tool in this life of mine. He's the one who gets the bad rap, when I'm the one who really should know better. If only he'd (or I'd) learn.

Psalm 81:11-14
“But no, my people wouldn’t listen. Israel did not want me around. So I let them follow their own stubborn desires, living according to their own ideas. Oh, that my people would listen to me! Oh, that Israel would follow me, walking in my paths! How quickly I would then subdue their enemies! How soon my hands would be upon their foes! Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him; they would be doomed forever. But I would feed you with the finest wheat. I would satisfy you with wild honey from the rock.”