Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I'm Fruitful! I'm Focused! I'm Living My Purpose! I'm Rockn' My Box!

*Edited* to say this quote "We have people in our lives who come to us to get what they need and it's all they know to do. When we hurt or we have needs, they have no idea what to do with us." as seen below, is attributed to a good e-mail full of advice I received from Tabbie. Tabbie is a wonderful person I've had the pleasure to connect with via blog land and I'm so grateful for all the kind words, encouragement, and advice she has brought to my life!

Yesterday I started to pick things up around the house and hadn't been feeling well all day so the hubs sent me to my bed to try and relax a bit. I flipped through the channels and got a good heavy dose from Joyce Meyer. Click here to check out yesterdays Podcast.

I've seen a lot of Joyce Meyer this year and I have to say, she couldn't have landed on a better note, or hit the nail harder on the head! This podcast is exactly where I was yesterday!

The hubs and the kids are all home from work and school and we haven't had much to do the last week and a half or so. This has left me with too much time on my hands to think too much. I spent the last couple of days moping around about this and moping about that and complaining about this and complaining about that. So hubby that it was really funny when he walked into the middle of a Joyce Meyer broadcast to catch her getting excited about all the things he's been telling me for days and weeks! Oh yeah, he had his "told ya so" moment!

One thing that caught my attention in this broadcast is when she talks about how we do things so we don't upset others, because we want to be well liked, because we want to be part of the crowd, we don't want anyone to talk about us, etc. I was very pleased to realize I am not the only woman on this planet that feels that way! Hallelujah! I'm not an insecure retard!

Well, I started to say no to some things this year and learned that Joyce is right. When I started to say no to the things I felt led to get rid of in my life, to line up my actions with what I say out of my mouth, I didn't fit into every box or clique I wanted to fit into. The trouble is, when you spend a good portion of your life knowing someone, they know all the ins and outs of your life. They know where your knees tend to buckle to sin, the mistakes you've made, they know who you were before you surrendered to Jesus. And you know what, they don't let you off the hook! They continue to see you in the same light they have always seen you. So I'm faced with a variety of different people with a variety of different expectations and I'm made to feel guilty and question my character when I don't meet those expectations. But really, only God knows what is required of me. Only he requires anything of me. Yes, I do have a responsibility as a wife and a mother but God and I with the support of the hubs will determine the best way for me to live that out along with all the other decisions and commitments I make in life.

I spent a lot of time this year trying to get over what other people think of me and thank you Jesus, I'm almost all the way there! I wasted a lot of time trying to please and impress other people. I plan to carefully evaluate my time this coming year. I want to get the most of each and every day. I want to be salt and light. I want to be the kind of Christian that helps others. I want to be the kind of Christian that brings other people to heaven with her! So if your one of those people whose opinions used to occupy my thoughts and time, I just don't have room for your opinion in my schedule anymore.

I told a friend earlier today there are so many things I learned this year but two things I know for sure are, a lot of people are takers. We have people in our lives who come to us to get what they need and it's all they know to do. When we hurt or we have needs, they have no idea what to do with us. I'm still available to the takers of my life but I am aware now of those I can turn to in my hour of need. The trouble with expecting something of someone incapable is that you are the one left like there is something wrong with you. I assure you, there is nothing wrong with you. You share your lives so you can be available for that person and God has called someone else to be available to you.

The second thing I learned this year is being the better person and taking the high road does not always yield desirable results. I thought that if I made all the right choices and did everything maturely that all things would work out. Regardless as to how I handle myself, some people just won't like me. Sure, it still stings but I'm better for it.

Okay, three things I know for certain, the third is, I NEED my devotional time daily to be a good person. To be happy, to be polite, to be less irritable, and to walk in love. To diddo a bit from my photo blog, my gift to myself this year is going to be my devotional time. It is the one thing I can do, my prayer closet is the one place I can go, to get filled, to get joy, to be renewed, to be refreshed. The hubs can tell you first hand that if I forgo the prayer closet for a few days, it isn't fun around here! It's my time, it's the one thing I will do for myself daily. And, it's the best gift I can give not only myself but my family too.

My prayer closet is first, keeping my hubby up there at place number two should do miracles to soothe our souls this coming year, and finding a deeper connection with my children. I can do that if I do and only do what God has asked me to do. I refuse to spend another year running around doing things I ought not be doing. This year will be spent focusing on the gifts God has bestowed on me and using them to be a blessing to others. Both of my blogs have been good to me. I have been blessed and from the e-mails and comments I get from blog-land, I know my blog is being used to reach others as well.

I rocked the box I kept myself in, in 2008. In 2009, I'm rocking the box that others have tried to keep me in! Watch out, you may get a splinter!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Year in Review {March}

Well, nothing really profound in my words for March, but my favorite post for the month is when my Nikon Arrived. March is when I purchased my first DSLR and it changed the direction of my life.

It's crazy to know I have only put nine months into my self-taught skills and education and my profile is well under way. It has been both an exciting and a trying year in so many facets. Photography and writing have both served as outlets for me, for my emotions, and for my creativity. Plus, I have some really amazing shots of my family from this year as well. I've grown so much in nine months. I look forward to all the next full year has to bring!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Year in Review {February}

My favorite post in February is A marriage retreat that focused on me?

This was an important gathering for my husband and I. It was where we learned that we love each other profoundly and we are each deeply committed, but, we have been speaking different languages. We still need to finish getting through The Five Love Languages to complete this area because we each give and receive love in different ways.

It was also the time I realized that writing is really where it's at for me, for this season. It reaffirmed our belief that we will one day be part of some type of ministry down the road. And, it was also the beginning of what would become a year-long lesson and theme in my life.

"A little lesson I've learned in this whole process (the thing that completes my circle) is that who I am, my worth, my value is not measured in someone else’s opinion of me, or even my own opinion. My worth is determined by how God sees me and according to his word I am a new creation, I am righteous (he sees me as an example of his righteousness), faithful, etc. Though there may not currently be outward evidence of it, His word has the power to perform exactly what God says I am! I am complete in Him! Every scripture that reads "in him," or "in Christ" is an example of who I truly am in Christ, how he sees me. There are 130 of them; I'm off to find a few more!"

The above paragraph led me to find many scriptures over this year that helped me claim revelation and insight as to how Jesus sees me, feels about me, and just how important I am to him. I'm sure as you continue with me my year in review you'll easily discover how hard the Lord has worked to teach me this year. I'm still a work in progress, I'm not there yet. But, I have certainly learned many valuable life lessons this year. Some I continue to work on, others were hardcore-only-need-to-go-through-that-once, kind of lessons and I won't be repeating those mistakes!

I'll leave you with the scripture that I have clung to this year...
Romans 12:2 NLT
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A year in review and I hit 100 posts!

This will actually make 102! Wow! Well, it's Christmas Eve. My favorite day of the year. Family, food, old family tradition, the sparkle of a child's eye, romance, laughter, fond memories, missed loved ones, and this year, a white ground full of deep, deep, snow.

I wanted to take some time to look back on where I've been this year and pull out my favorite posts, one from each month. My favorite from January '08 is my first. The photos are downright dreadful compared to how much I've grown this year. Still, they are some of my favorites. They mark how much I've grown and in so many ways this year.

In January, I knew I was beginning a new trend for my life. A new road. I had no idea in January just where that road would lead me in the months ahead. Months of rain. Hardcore, thunderstorm, hurricane, type rain. But, as I look back on the past twelve months and consider the challenges, stages, and phases, I know my grass is greener. I am stronger. I have a friendship with Jesus. I have a more intimate relationship with Him. I am more mature. I have been refined in the fire.

I'm looking forward to the journey I'll take over the next two weeks or so as I read my own blog, all 100 posts from my first year. I hope this will serve as a nice summary for those that are new to my blog and a tender reminder for those who have been along for the ride since day 1.

To my blog friends, those I've not yet met in person, thank you for your e-mails, comments, kind words, and especially your prayers this year. You have seen me through the toughest season of my life! For my friends and family that know me personally, I also want to thank you for the tremendous support you have also been this year. It is due to many of you that I have been shaped into the person I am today. For the first time in my life, I like me for me, more than ever before.

Here is my favorite January '08 post:

I want to close with a big Merry Christmas to you all! Take a minute, regardless to how well you know Him, and thank Jesus for his birth, for what came of his future, and all he has done and will continue to do for all of us! My favorite Christmas song, which I cannot get through without a good ole' ugly cry! And, my favorite Christmas image so far.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Here in the grand state of Michigan we are getting hammered with snow; 1-3" every hour to be exact. So all the kiddos are home from school and won't be returning until after the new year. I'm looking forward to having the kids and the hubs home from work/school for a couple of weeks but I can also feel the cabin fever coming on. I'm sure there will be lots of sledding going on, especially at Grandma's on Sunday.

As Christmas approaches and the year winds down I am ever so grateful. I'm really looking forward to this coming week. I have lunch and dinner dates with sweet friends. Sunday will be shared at my mother-in-laws where we'll be cooking and getting ready for Christmas Eve, eating some divine mexican food prepared by my sister-in-law, and celebrating my nieces 12th birthday. They grow up so fast!

We always share Christmas Eve with family at my mother-in-laws house where the table always overflows with all things Polish. And, everything from the sides, to the main dish, to dessert is always made from scratch. If your eating an old family favorite, especially if it was a favorite of Lana's you'll find a dash of tears as well. We will always miss her and never forget just how truly gorgeous she was both inside and out.

As part of our Christmas Eve tradition, we share Oplatek. All people in attendance break bread together. The first year we did this, it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It stretched me so far out of my comfort zone, I thought I might get sick. Now, it's definitely one of my favorite things!

So in the spirit of family, good friends, and good food, I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas! I am thankful to live in a place where we have the freedom to celebrate Jesus on the day of his birth and each and every day! May his name be glorified this season!

On a bit of a side note, I am thankful for the decision that was press released today regarding the bail-out loan for the automakers. The Lord is my source and provider. But, for so many that don't know him, that don't bring their tithes into the storehouse, and live under the hedge of his protection, they would have been ruined. I am grateful for the hundreds of thousands of families who have just received God's grace. I pray that seeds and revelation be sewn into their lives so they know God is their source and provider and he just saved a whole bunch of booties!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Writer's Workshop

Okay MaMa Kat is at it again with her Writer’s Workshop. This week the prompt I chose is Describe a “new road” you’ve taken in your life.

Well, let’s see growing up I was a pretty good kid for the most part, I could be trusted, aka I didn’t get caught! No really, I was a good kid. Then I came home drunk for the first time at age fifteen, got arrested for shoplifting not too much farther down the path from that incident. Turned sixteen, got pregnant, and attended a garden variety of hotel parties along the road between my sixteenth birthday and said pregnancy. I had said child at age seventeen. Had my parent’s sign away their rights as parents about that time so I could get married. At age seventeen in Michigan your parents must provide signed consent in order for you to get a marriage license. Married in August of 1995 and lived the most horrific and tumultuous year of my entire life. It’s okay, my husband would agree with me on just how badly it sucked. So last week when I said that God chooses to use those that the world would consider garbage, yeah, um, I fit.

The hubs I often refer to in my blog is the one and only hubs, he decided that if the first year was that bad, it could only get better, right? Yes, he is the father of all five of my children as well. No, we didn’t use fertility treatments. Yes, perfect strangers do find it perfectly acceptable to inquire within. Really! There is nothing better than standing in line at Wal-Mart and the old lady behind you just has to know why in God’s name I have so many children and is it even possible to have convinced one man to father them all. Certainly, I had to of abused God’s laws and gave birth to genetic freaks or something. God forbid people actually fall in love, figure out how to re-fall-in-love and cohabitate!

Moving on, I worked full-time until after our third child was born. I was always good at whatever it was I put my hand to, pretty successful, and people liked me. I gradually became overwhelmed with guilt taking my kids to daycare every day and the expense of having three of them in daycare everyday soon became non-value-added. So the first major path I took in my life was deciding to be a stay-at-home mom. It has taken me about seven years to grow into this role! Uh, it didn’t come naturally. I wasn’t good at it, and you know what, people here didn’t really always like me either.

I’ve always run a pretty tight ship. I keep things organized, and have a no-bone- about-it kind of attitude. Okay, so I’m not nurturing and I’m a clean freak. But, when it comes to friendships, my ambitions, and meeting new people I have always stood in my own way. I was a shy person most of my life, lacked confidence in a real severe way, and I was a big, giant, people-pleasing, pushover.

A co-worker of my husband’s saw a handful of snapshots I had taken of my kiddos. Well, apparently, I have the “eye” for photography, a gift. This works out real well because as soon as I caught one glimpse of a photo blog, I had to have it! So I picked up my first digital SLR this year and worked my butt off. I’ve gained an obscene amount of knowledge as it relates to photography, composition, lighting, metering, etc. I’ve seen many a 2:00 in the morning and sacrificed a lot of time away from my husband and kids to get to where I am now.
I have grown a thicker layer of skin. I have been forced way outside my comfort zone; my box is almost non-existent now. I wanted to throw up all over my first couple of clients. I was so nervous. Now, I love meeting new people. I love getting to know them through the process. I often leave my sessions feeling like friend with my clients.

I have wanted to quit countless times. I refuse to let myself get halfway into anything and just quit though. I am going to see this through to the end. In return, God has blessed all things that I have put my hand to. I expected to have a photo blog riddled with images of my children because I sucked and no one would want to pay me for anything I could produce. But, God has blessed me with creativity, with skills, with a natural talent, and he has brought people out of every direction. I have had a steady flow of clients since the spring and I am truly blessed!
This road has been marked with suffering and struggles, with effort, with sleepless nights, and with countless thoughts of self deprivation. But, mostly, it has been marked with growth. Not just growth in the area of my skills but growth in who I am as a person. Somewhere along the line, I picked myself up off the ground. I wiped off the dirt from the front side and the shoe tracks from the backside and decided I know who I am, I know who I want to be, and I’m going to get there!

I have discovered a new sense of confidence. I have begun to love and accept myself. I have learned to resist battling everything that goes wrong with every person it goes wrong with. I have learned to forgive and love them anyway. I am in the process of learning to forgive myself. I have gained much and overcame much on this new road. Christ is the center of it all. He is author of my gifts and talents. He is my Lord and Savior. He is my forgiver. He is my restorer. He is my refuge, my peace, and my strength.

You are not in control, get used to it...

"Not until we embrace God's sovereignty will we have the ability to reason our way through life theologically. Until then, we will be too important in the plan. Man's opinion will be too significant to us. And, we will churn and wrestle and struggle our way through the Christian life. Trying too hard to please people rather than living it relieved and relaxed in His plan." Taken from the book Mystery of God's Will by Charles Swindoll.

Sovereignty means God is in control. This is His life, His will, His plan, His world, and we are His people. Until we realize that we do not have sovereignty, we are not in control over us, we will not live in peace. We need to realize that we are not the ruler over our lives but that we were created to surrender it to His plan and trust Him. We need to realize that we are not in control of, nor can we change people. We also need to realize that until we purpose ourselves to live an obedient life to Christ, we will be people pleasers.

Being a people pleaser causes us to agree to things that there is no grace for. It causes an overcrowded schedule. It causes us to second guess certain things about ourselves. It causes us to harbor unforgiveness toward ourselves when we fail to please someone around us. My previous blog came from being too concerned with what others think of me. It is a three-fold thing for me. I am concerned with how others around me perceive me. I have learned this week that this way of thinking is bondage and I'm gettn' free! A portion of it was directed toward my husband because I know I've missed it with him on many occasions. I was angry, in part, with him because I can't live up to his expectations. He is seeking more right now than what I am capable of giving. Finally, I'm angry with myself because I know I'm not meeting his needs. It's sad when you feel like a continual failure, especially when 9 times out of 10 it is due to selfishness. My husband has always believed that people get defensive in certain situations because they feel guilty. I got angry with him because I know I'm failing in certain areas and frankly, I don't want to be reminded by his sad eyes.

When I first came to terms with our housing situation I had a friend tell me over and over to, well, get over myself because Jesus bought and paid for it all. he paid the price for my past. I actually didn't keep in contact with her because I wasn't sure about her beliefs and doctrine.

Philippians 3:12-16 NLT 12 I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to posses that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. 15 Let us all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. 16 But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.

In verse 12 Paul is saying I'm not there, I'm not perfect. In verse 13 he is saying but his focus is on one thing, forgetting the past! In verse 15, he is saying that if you want to spend your life dwelling on the past and beating yourself up, you are spiritually immature. In verse 16 he is saying, I'm not where I want to be, but thank God I'm not where I used to be. Acknowledge the progress you have already made. Whoo hoo! That's good news people. So if I want to spend my time questioning God's promises, wondering whether he really forgives, and beating myself up, I'm being immature and wasting time. It takes a lot of faith to ask God to forgive you once, receive it, and move on.

Furthermore, God chooses to use people that the world would consider garbage. My value is not measured in what others think of me or even what I think of me. It is measured in what God thinks of me.

I am loved by God and He gave his one and only Son for me. (John 3:16)
I am a new creation in Christ; the old has gone and the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I have peace with God. (Romans 5:1) The Holy Spirit lives in me. (1 Corinthians 3:16) I have access to God's wisdom. (James 1:5)
I am helped by God. (Hebrews 4:16) I am reconciled to God. (Romans 5:11)
I am not condemned by God. (Romans 8:1)
I have Christ's righteousness. (Romans 5:19; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
I am completely forgiven. (Colossians 1:14)
I am tenderly loved by God. (Jeremiah 31:3)
I am the sweet fragrance of Christ to God. (2 Corinthians 2:15)
I am a temple in which God dwells. (1 Corinthians 3:16)
I am blameless and beyond reproach. (Colossians 1:22)
I am the salt of the earth. (Matthew 5:13)
I am the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14)
I am a branch on Christ's vine. (John 15:1,5)
I am Christ's friend. (John 15:5)
I am chosen by Christ to bear fruit. (John 15:16)
I am a joint heir with Christ, sharing His inheritance with Him. (Romans 8:17)
I am a member of Christ's body. (1 Corinthians 12:27) I am a saint. (Ephesians 1:1)
I am hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)
I am chosen by God, holy and dearly loved. (Colossians 3:12)
I am a child of the light. (1 Thessalonians 5:5)
I am holy, and I share in God's heavenly calling. (Hebrews 3:1)
I am sanctified. (Hebrews 2:11)
I am one of God's living stones, being built up in Christ as a spiritual house. (1 Peter 2:5)
I am firmly rooted and built up in Christ. (Colossians 2:7)
I am born of God, and the evil one cannot touch me. (1 John 5:18)
I have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)

And the list goes on.... Not only are each of those verses about who I am in Christ, they are about who you are in Christ, as long as HE is Lord of your life!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Where's the blog lady?

Okay people, I've had a couple of frustrating days and here is where I get honest. Like, really honest.

I was not raised in a christian, religious, or church going home. Well, for the most part. I used to occasionally sleep over Grandma's house and attend her episcopalian church with her. I loved to sit in the first pew and watch her sing in the choir. There was a time we lived in an apartment complex and on Saturday these two fellows from a Baptist church would come around and give out candy. You say, "yes, we're getting on the church bus tomorrow" and in return, they give you candy. Sunday morning this blue school bus would come around the complex and pick up all the kids that wanted to go to church, on the bus, and leave their parents at home. That seems odd to me but I loved it. My favorite part was when we got out of our own Sunday classes, I'd always find my youngest brother in a corner crying somewhere because he didn't know where to go or know where to find me or our other brother. It was usually the only time he'd let me mother him. Bad big sister, I know.

Anyway, not raised in a christian home with parents that prayed for me. I was allowed to watch movies at a young age that I never should have seen in my lifetime at all. I used to love hanging out with my cousin that was seven years older than me, she made me street smart. Well, my version of street smart but not hers. I never beat anyone up. I was allowed to watch MTV and for the most part I was a pretty good kid, oldest child, only daughter, so my parents trusted me and I had a lot of freedom. As I got older I smoked cigarettes, drank beer, smoked pot, got arrested for shoplifting, pregnant at seventeen. I did a lot of stupid crap.

I've been saved for more than ten years but I haven't been a dedicated christian with my nose in the bible daily for gosh, more than a year probably. There is a lot that needs to be burned off. I have been severely desensitized. Add to it, I'm damaged. I don't trust all that easily and I've been hurt by those closest to me. This means that those who I love most deal with the brunt of it. I love them more than anything or anyone else and it will hurt more if and when they disappoint me. It's easier for me to trust and be kind and encourage those that at arms length from me. I'm not attached so they can't hurt me. But, those I love and adore, I can't seem to let in at all.

Someone once said to me "maybe you aren't who you say you are." Nothing struck my core than those words. It hurt because it was true. I felt like a hypocrite. But now, now I'm just frustrated because I'm not a hypocrite. I'm a frickn' human! I'm not perfect. I make mistakes. I hurt people. I say things I think are funny and hurt someones feelings in the process. I get angry and say things that are unkind. I do things even though I now better not to. I sin. Just because I am purposefully trying to improve the quality of my life and my after life does not mean I think I've got it all going on. I'm not riding on a high horse. I'm not holier than thou. I get it wrong. I don't intentionally set out to try and hurt people and if anyone I know feels that way, well, you don't know me at all.

I am all too aware of my faults, my shortcomings. I know who I want to be. There are people in my life that inspire me to become that person. It's going to take a lot of time and a lot of prayer and a lot of dedication to get there. By the way, none of us ever really gets there. But, I know there are things I can do each day to bring me closer to the Lord, my husband, and my children. There are things I can do daily to make those around me feel loved. That is what I will continue to focus on.

I am not going to spend another day wondering if what I said offended this person or that person. I am not going to limit my personality or tip toe around. I am who I am. Sometimes I'm funny. Sometimes I'm cranky. Sometimes I'm cuddly and somethings I don't want to be touched. Sometimes I'm friendly and sometimes I'm shy. Sometimes I need to be loved and feel loved but I just don't know how.

Don't get me wrong, I will continue to be kind and friendly, considerate, and walk in love but I will no longer apologize for things that I am unintentionally doing or unaware of. I will no longer second guess myself. I wasn't put here to please people. I was put here to worship the Lord, and serve people. To let my life be an example of his love, to please him, not people.

With the person I used to be came behaviors and habits that I no longer with to participate in. I'm not being judgemental. I know that I am the one being judged. In Revelations chapter 2, the Lord said he would kill the children of Jezebel who called herself a prophet, taught people to commit sexual sin, and eat food offered by idols. He says, then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person.

God takes sin very seriously and we all will be judged. There are people around me who do not have the same views and beliefs. But, I take my faith very seriously. I know that what I do and what I teach my children will carry from generation to generation. I owe it to my children and grandchildren to live the best life, Christ centered, and do and be what he has called me to be. So I don't stand in judgement because I am all to preoccupied with that which I know I will be judged for.

There are others around me that need me to be more. More loving, more compassionate, more giving, more nurturing. This is strange territory for me. It will only be possible through the continual filling of love from God in my life daily, my own prayers, and prayers of others. It was my husband last night who said "where's the blog lady?" This blog is a representation of the very best of who I am and away from this blog, outside of prayer and the presence of God, it gets uglier. All I can say is, I know who I want to be. Lord, change me, I am willing to be changed.

In the mean time, for my husband and the rest of those out there that I know and love who are under the impression that I think I'm all that and a bag of chips, I'm not, nor do I think I am. I am fully aware of my faults. I am haunted by hurtful things I've said, arguments, disagreements, and a curious mind of what others think of me. I truly try to be the best possible me to everyone I meet, know, and love but I do miss it sometimes. If I've missed it with you, I'm truly sorry. Forgive me.

Monday, December 8, 2008

My Source

Last week, I started to mention a few areas that I feel led to dig a little deeper. Yet another area I need to concentrate on is, selfishness. I'm not an only child but I often behave as though I was raised as one. I am the only girl, the oldest child, perfectionist, classic type 'a' personality. I am also a control freak and like when I make the plan and we do my plan. I like my ideas. I'm not so good at playing out other people's ideas. So, when I read this in my lil' Joyce Meyer devotional this morning it clicked with me. This is the place I'm trying to get to:

Enjoy Liberty
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who is patient under trial and stands up under temptation, for when he has stood the test and been approved, he will receive a crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him.

Life is miserable when we won't listen to anybody else, or when we get mad every time somebody doesn't agree with us. To be so emotionally ruled and controlled that we are stressed every time something doesn't go our way is bondage. When Jesus sets us free, it means that we are free not to get upset just because we don't get everything we want.
It is wonderful to be free. We can give thanks for the liberty to receive God's help and walk in patience despite our circumstances. Our lives can be happy, blessed, and peaceful. We can experience joy no matter what the situation may be.

The first point I want to make is this, the crown in the verse above is the crown I spoke of last week, my husband's will be custom made people. The second point being, um, wow, bondage. That is a revelation for me. This short little passage demonstrates that the personality traits that I'm not proud of can be changed. This is good news. I know I need to spend more time reading the scriptures and memorizing the ones that tell us who I am and we are are in Christ.

One more bit that I want to add is from The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. The holiday season can, in any year, seem overwhelming and rushed, and leave our wallets a little dry. This year especially, many families are troubled with a lot of uncertainty, loss of jobs, etc. I want to share this passage with you to remind us to keep our eyes on our source. To be grateful for the miracle he has already done for us and I just love the way it is described in this portion of the book.

"Remember what God has already done for you. If God never did anything else for you, he would still deserve your continual praise for the rest of your life because of what Jesus did for you on the cross. God's son died for you! This is the greatest reason for worship.

Unfortunately, we forget the cruel details of the agonizing sacrifice God made on our behalf. Familiarity breeds complacency. Even before his crucifixion, the Son of God was stripped naked, beaten until almost unrecognizable, whipped, scorned and mocked, crowned with thorns, and spit on contemptuously. Abused and ridiculed by heartless men, he was treated worse than an animal.

Then, nearly unconscious from blood loss, he was forced to drag a cumbersome cross up a hill, was nailed to it, and was left to die the slow, excruciating torture of death by crucifixion. While his lifeblood drained out, hecklers stood by and shouted insults, making fun of his pain and challenging his claim to be God.

Next, as Jesus took all of mankind's sin and guilt on himself, God looked away from that ugly sight, and Jesus cried out in total desperation, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Jesus could have saved himself-but then he could not have saved you.

Words cannot describe the darkness of that moment. Why did God allow and endure such ghastly, evil mistreatment? Why? So you could be spared from eternity in hell, and so you could share in his glory forever!"

What stands out most for me in the story of Jesus' death is that he too has felt forsaken by God the Father. As believers, we all have seasons where the Lord is quiet. The bible promises us that he will never leave us, nor forsake us. I believe the Lord's promises. In the faith teaching at church over the last several weeks and through my own experience, I have learned that the silence is a test of our faith. Will I continue to trust and obey when I have no sense of his presence? I committed myself just yesterday morning at church to continually praise him. If I never feel his anointing or sense his presence again, I will worship him anyway. We are not called to worship for ourselves, we are servants, what he does for us is a bonus, a blessing.

We celebrate this holiday season because we are thankful for the Lord's birth. Because his birth led to a sin free life. Because his sin free life paid the price for each one of us when he was put to death on the cross that day. Jesus is the reason for the season! He is savior! He is my source! I will not look to the economy, my husband's job, my parent's, or any other source to supply my needs. I will look to the father.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Writer's Workshop High School

2. Are you still friends with your high school friends? Describe them.

This particular workshop is not that far off from where my heart has been the last couple of weeks. There are a handful of girls that I kept in touch with from high school and a few more I still think of fondly from time to time.

I was a member of a foursome that, since our ten-year reunion, got together monthly for a "t-party". Our t-parties are a traveling party where each of us takes turns hosting the gathering from month to month.

I, one year, hosted our Christmas party and went overboard. Our home had two Christmas trees and every surface indoors and out was covered in holiday cheer. The dining room table had a lovely runner down the center and the center piece was made up of glittered reindeer, three glass cylinders that held pillar candles and tiny crystal votives. Each place setting was perfectly set and the name cards were attached to ornaments that were glittered snowflakes. My home looked like we were going to try and summon the dead with all the candles we had going in every room. Entertaining is one of my very favorite things to do and I loved putting so much love and effort into every detail for the ones that are most important to me. I was aptly donned, Martha Stewart.

Ms. McButta' is like the middle child, the peace keeper. She is more neutral than Switzerland people! She has a pure and tender heart. Loyal to the core. So easy to talk to and one you can trust with absolutely anything. It would be easy for anyone reading this, who knew of our foursome, or any member of us, to decide who is who from the nicknames and personality traits. If you know me personally, you probably know Ms. McButta' and if you haven't already figured out who she is, this will for sure be a dead giveaway. Everybody loves Ms. McButta'! It's sort of an inside joke. Except that anyone who has ever met, or seen for that matter, Ms. McButta' is in on it because truly, if you know her, you love her. She has been this way since she arrived at Harwood Elementary in 5th grade.

Half of us karaoked and the other half watched in pure delight from the sidelines and danced along. One of us is crazy enough to impersonate Tina Turner, quite well too actually and crawl along the dance floor to Madonna's Like A Virgin. One of us does an extremely animated and totally hysterical version of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. Actually, all her performances are extremely animated and she does a mean impersonation of just about any country song too. One of us is purely a one-hit-wonder whose only sold out performance was of Britney Spears Hit Me Baby One More Time. Last but not least, one of us sits on the sidelines and cries along to It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want To. I will neither claim nor deny which, if any, of these performances are mine. Half of us are wild, crazy, outgoing, and unstoppable, while the other half lives vicariously through their adventures.

Boobs McGee, well her and I go back to fourth grade! We spent the worst day of our lives together. It was Father's Day, we made a huge mistake and that's all your getting out of me. I still often wonder if her mother has ever gotten over that day. Ah! I'm sure she has, or at least that's what I'll keep telling myself. I recently attended the a gathering in honor of Ms. McGee and each guest was asked to introduce themselves, explain how we know Ms. McGee, and what we appreciate most about her. I gave my name, explained we've been friends since 1776, and what I appreciate most about her is how direct she is. I always know where I stand with her, and where she stands on most things because she just tells ya like it is. Ms. McGee isn't the affectionate type which only makes me want to love on her more. I can't help it, she's got a built in set of pillows! The gathering in honor of Ms. McGee was her bachelorette party. She has since married her best friend and people, you should see the way he looks at her. The twinkle in his eye could blind someone! Mr. J, the game is not over!

Last but not least is Auntsy P. This part is both the easiest and the hardest. I know her the best and vice versa, but Auntsy P and I, if you have been following my blog, are recently estranged. Ms. P and I go back to Mr. McIntryes class in 7th grade. Stay on task! Mr. Gerling, Skate World, hotel parties, homecoming, smoking cigarettes, taunting boys, daisy dukes, and so many other things come to mind when I think of her. Ms. P shares my love of music and so many songs I hear hold a memory of a time I shared with her. We also share a love for dance, booty shaking, lip pouting, dancing! Each of us does have a "signature" move too by the way. Each of us also has at least one photo album full of over 400 pictures from these parties. Many of them are self portraits. Or, pictures we took ourselves with each other in lou of asking our mates to do it for us. But most of them are of us laughing so hard you can see clear to our tonsils! Just the music aspect reminds me of how much we have in common and we harshly disagree on certain things.

We've always had kind of a love/hate thing going. There is something that connects us. When we bond, we really bond. Our similarities can't be more similar but our differences couldn't be more different. We've fought like sisters, like cats and dogs, and for a long time overcame and resolved each issue. We've had seasons of distance between us before but there has always been something that somehow reconnects us.

We used to talk about living next door to each other, sitting on our front porches, sipping tea, and watching the kids and eventually grand kids play in the yard. I hope her future is a blessed one. She is also recently married, her husband has three children whose footsteps and laughter will fill the rooms in their new home. This place in her life is what she has been waiting for. She has a new life, newly married, new home, a family all her own. With the home came the big front porch she dreamed of. While the best friend that will swing with her there is not who occupied our previous plans, I'm certain he'll care for her. If there is any one thing I could do for her now, to draw a line, to move on, to provide closure, it would be the gift of a porch swing.

Mr. E & Mr. J, if ever you come upon this, Take care of her! When you offer to unload the dishwasher and she says "no, I've got it." Unload it! Keep the toilet seat down and for pete sake, don't pee on it! Remember, often times "no" means "yes" and "yes" really means "no." It's your responsibility to learn the difference. Buy her cards that play music. It's the little things in life that keep it fresh and make her feel loved. Take care of her, take care of you!

xoxo - M. Stewart aka Bear aka Kari

Now it's your turn. Choose a prompt:

1.) Tag! Post and write about the 6th picture from the 6th folder of your Flickr (or similar) account and then do the same for the 6th picture of the 6th folder on your computer.

2.) Are you still friends with you high school friends? Describe them.

3.) If you had to star in a reality tv show, which one would it be and why?

4.) Describe a time when your pet caused chaos.

And then post it on your blog and sign Mr. Linky at Mama's Losin' It to participate.

I Hope You Dance

I received this in an e-mail yesterday....

FOOTPRINTS...A New Version

Imagine you and the Lord Jesus are walking down the road together. For much of the way, the Lord's footprints go along steadily, consistently, rarely varying the pace.

But your footprints are a disorganized stream of zigzags, starts, stops, turnarounds, circles, departures, and returns. For much of the way, it seems to go like this, but gradually your footprints come more in line with the Lord's, soon paralleling, His consistently.

You and Jesus are walking as true friends!

This seems perfect, but then an interesting thing happens: Your footprints that once etched the sand next to Jesus' are now walking precisely in His steps.

Inside His larger footprints are your smaller ones, you and Jesus are becoming one. This goes on for many miles, but gradually you notice another change. The footprints inside the large footprints seem to grow larger. Eventually they disappear altogether. There is only one set of footprints. They have become one.

This goes on for a long time, but suddenly the second set of footprints is back. This time it seems even worse! Zigzags all over the place. Stops. Starts. Gashes in the sand. A variable mess of prints. You are amazed and shocked.

Your dream ends. Now you pray: 'Lord, I understand the first scene, with zigzags and fits. I was a new Christian; I was just learning. But You walked on through the storm and helped me learn to walk with You.'

'That is correct.'

'And when the smaller footprints were inside of Yours, I was actually learning to walk in Your steps, following You very closely.'

'Very good. You have understood everything so far.'

When the smaller footprints grew and filled in Yours, I suppose that I was becoming like You in every way.'


So, Lord, was there a regression or something? The footprints separated, and this time it was worse than at first.

There is a pause as the Lord answers, with a smile in His voice.

'You didn't know? It was then that we danced!'

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to weep, a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:1,4.

I am all too grateful to be in a place where my prints are no longer a tangled, disorganized mess. I have come a long way and changed much in a year however, I'm not yet dancing. I should say me and Jesus, we are friends. My toes are beginning to tap and as I continue to be consistant and seek him, I look forward to the dance!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Choose to be changed...

Before I did any reading this morning, before I got to any part of my study, I found myself uttering over and over "change me, change me, change me."

I've got a couple of things going on that I feel compelled to study and look into a bit deeper. The first is the power of my tongue. Luke 12:34 says For where your heart is there will your treasure be also. Our heart is the key to who we are. To how mature we are, to what we treasure, to what we hold most important, it is where we store our confidences, our secrets, and our fears. The heart is the storehouse, our mouths are the vessel that gives us away. The heart is the well, the water within the well is our treasure, and the bucket is our tongue that delivers it. Our words reveal who we are and what we stand for. It isn't my writing, my blog, or my prayers that has me concerned. It's the things I say without thinking that have me concerned. How I speak about our finances, the things I say unknowingly over my children (oh that one is handful, well no wonder, I just confessed it!), etc.

I have this place I get caught in, my husband calls it a "mode." It's a place where the walls to up and get bolted to the ceiling. There isn't an ounce of light coming in. You can say whatever you want to me and it won't effect me. I'm officially turned off. However, my mouth gets turned on and out of it flows ugly, vile, and harmful words. It's like something takes over all together. Well that was easy to share (she said in a sarcastic tone). So knowing my words hold power, power to change and create circumstances, power to heal, and even power to hurt is a revelation in it's own right. But, apparently it isn't enough to keep my mouth from spewing things I ought not be uttering. I really want to delve more into this area and dig up some scripture to help combat against the temptation to say things that contradict how I want my future to be shaped. More importantly, I need to get to the core of what I harbor inside the ugly spots of my heart and get those areas cleaned up.

First thing in the morning is always a tough, tough, time for me. Not that I should be confessing this, with trying to monitor my words and all, but for now it's just true, I wake up defensive. I wake up moody, cranky, angry, irritated. And, with the flow of crying in this house each morning, ugh! it can be ugly. I get bombarded with all kinds of thoughts that go against what I know to be true. I start to fear about my husband's job. Worry about our finances. There are issues I have with my children that start to boggle around in there and it's just torture. There are times when I suffer quietly and just move the kids about their routine. If my poor unlucky husband is home when my feet hit the floor, look out! He gets it. So far, this is fun! No?

I came across this quote today and I have no idea who this is, I just know this is the guy who said it V. Raymond Edman said "never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light." Wow! that is super good stuff! My dark place is first thing in the morning because my feet hit the ground running and I think the devil probably enjoys my mornings. So, I've got to change up my mornings. I do have a time set aside to read, study, update my blog, pray, etc. but it's after the house is empty and everyone is off to school.

My favorite part of Facebook might just be flair. My favorite is the one that says "be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning, the devil says "ahhhh CRAP she's up!" If I want my morning to change from entertaining the devil to making him tremble, I'm going to have to change my morning. I'm going to have to get up a bit earlier and take control of my day, my thoughts, and in the process my future!

There are some other things I want to delve into too but I think that'll have to be another post. In conclusion for today, the world isn't going to change, the people around me probably aren't going to change, so I have to change.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Catching Up...

Last week the hubs was home from work most of the week and the kiddos were all off from school. We spent some necessary time together doing, well, nothing really. Sounds great no? We did get the kids up to the community pool a couple of times which they all thoroughly enjoy.

I spent hours sewing these little banners together for Mallory and Hailey's preschool class. And, today I went to school with them to help the class get started on this cute little holiday project. I absolutely enjoyed being with them at school. I enjoyed seeing how they interact with their friends and who their best buds are. I was excited about this morning and didn't think much of being there until the crowd of five doubled to ten and grew further to fifteen before the cars finally stopped arriving and we had seventeen four-year-olds in class this morning. On my way down the hall I started to unravel a bit at the idea of being trapped in a small room full of rambunctious four-year-olds for 2.5 hours! I am so thoroughly impressed what how smoothly their classroom is ran. The class does the same activity in the same order every day so the kids know exactly what to expect and what comes next. The room was so even tempered, there was minimal tattling which shocked me the most, and they weren't the least bit noisy. So I was left without the panic and was able to really observe my sweet girls and see how they spend their mornings away from mommy. I loved it! So much, I'm going back tomorrow!

So the family has kept me from a blog a bit lately but I have really enjoyed their company.

I'd like to take a peak back into the Bring the Rain posts for a second. I've noticed all these cute little sayings all over the stores lately that remind me that trials build character. I might pick one of them up next time I see one.

I want to also thank each of you who left comments and/or e-mailed me with your stories and encouraging words. I was blessed with a lot of good biblical advice and I thoroughly appreciate it!

As a final wrap-up from those posts, I want to mention that I did send off a note to the person I hope to still call a friend one day. Although I was hurt at first and confused, I'm not any longer, nor am I angry. I think I've changed a bit in the last year which has had a dramatic effect on our friendship. I promised to be here for her if and when she ever needs to chat or for anything at all. I will always think of her and pray for her and I'll certainly miss her. We never did chat about the circumstances but the details are unimportant to me. Not because I don't care, but because setting it all aside so that I can continue to think fondly of her is much more important. How we treat each other is much more important to me than forcing a discussion, apology, or explanation. All I can do is be here for her if ever she needs me and lift her up in prayer when she comes to mind.

I am thankful to be covered in peace. To know that my thoughts on how my husband and I should proceed with our future seem to be in line with my husband's ideas too which is awesome! I'm counting my blessings today!