Monday, November 10, 2014

Hope

Yesterday at church, we sang the old hymn, Because He Lives. This has been my favorite since I was a little girl. I sing it around the house all the time. It's one of the songs I sing when I'm rocking my babies. I sing it while I'm washing dishes and when I'm folding laundry. It's almost like it's just a part of me. I sing it without even thinking about it.

But yesterday? Yesterday I wasn't distracted with kids or clothes or dishes. I didn't have my mind on anything else. I was totally focused on the song I was singing. And for a slight second, it brought me to tears. I was taken back to that day. It's been almost 10 years, but I can remember it like it was yesterday. 

I remember staying awake all night waiting for him to come home. I remember praying and crying for hours on end. I remember police at our front door telling my mom that it was too soon to file a missing persons report. I remember her telling them that this wasn't normal for him. I remember her telling them that he was always home at the same time every day. I remember begging God to bring him home, even though, deep down, I already knew we would never see him again this side of eternity. I remember sitting in the living room feeling guilty because there had been multiple times over the past several months that I had had the feeling that something wasn't right with him. I remember vividly thinking he wasn't okay. 

I remember the next morning getting a phone call that he had been found. I remember a glimmer of hope that he was still alive. I remember that hope come crashing down when we found out he had ended his life. I remember our car pulling into the parking lot of the warehouse where he worked. I remember seeing the ambulance with its flashing lights. I remember seeing his car, walking toward it, laying my head on the back window with my arms outstretched, as if I was trying to hug him while hugging his car instead, all while my mom screamed at me to "don't go in there!" because she thought I was going to try to find him. I remember the police questioning my mom as a suspect even though there was no possible way a woman that small could have done that to man as big as he was! 

I remember days of looking through pictures, of planning a funeral. I remember floods of people pouring through our house bring cards and money and food and words of encouragement. 

I remember the funeral with friends sharing our grief. I remember my "nephew" - who was just 3 at the time, sitting on the front row with us and asking his mom, loudly, why that man was sleeping in church. I remember the giggles rippling through the church as people responded to the little boy's innocence and tried to remain reverent at the same time. I remember enjoying having kids come to our house and the funeral because they brought laughter and joy and happiness during a dark time. I remember speaking at my dad's funeral, though I don't remember what I said. I remember the slide show we put together, and I remember the friends who sang and which song they shared. But mostly? 

Mostly, I remember singing a congregational hymn. And I remember, after everyone had exited, our family gathered around his casket and sang the chorus of that hymn accapella. The hymn? Because He Lives. 

At the time, I knew it was true though my heart had trouble believing it. These past 9.5 years, I have struggled with trying to figure out what I learned through that experience. My family all talks about how they have learned to trust God more because He has proven that He is there for us. I, on the other hand, have been saying that it made it harder for me to trust Him. I mean, I know I can trust that He is able to do anything. But trusting that He will? That's a whole other ballgame. While the death of my father has proven to have positive outcomes for my family, I felt like it only had a negative impact on me. 

And then Sunday came. Sunday morning, the tears dried up as quickly as they came. My sadness turned around. Joy came in the morning, just as His Word says it will. 

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Whether that tomorrow is the death of a parent or other family member. Or a spouse addicted to pornography or having an affair. Or financial problems. Or an illness. Or a rebellious child. Or even something as small as burning dinner or misplacing an important piece of paper. WE can face tomorrow because of Him.
 
Then there's this. "Life is worth the living, just because He lives". Our tomorrows may be painful. They may be filled with deep, deep valleys. They may have mountains so tall and steep that it feels doubtful we'll ever reach the top. On the other hand, we may live a peaceful, joyful, happy existence with never an issue in sight. Whichever path our lives take, those situations can be learning experiences, but they're not our reason for living. They're not what makes or breaks life. They are but a brief moment in all of creation. The only thing that makes life worth living is because He lives. Without that, nothing matters. Even the person with the easiest life has no hope. With that, the death of a loved one, illness, unfaithfulness of a spouse, it is painful, but it doesn't remove the hope we have.

The second verse, though, is what spoke to me most.
"How sweet to hold a newborn baby
And feel the pride and joy he gives
But greater still the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain day because Christ lives"
I've always loved this verse. When I was little it was because it said something about a baby, and we all know how I feel about those! In more recent years, since I've started having children of my own, it's become a promise that my children can face those uncertain days. Sunday it became personal. I can face uncertain days. Not my mom and stepdad. Not my grandparents. Not my siblings or my nieces and nephews. Not my husband. Not my children. Not my grandchildren or great-grandchildren.

But me.

I can face uncertain days.

I've always known God can do anything. I've struggled with will He? Ya know what? It doesn't matter. I may walk through dark valley. I may face painful times. There will most likely be tears and hurts. He will be with me through it all. He will walk beside me. He will hold my hand. He will dry my tears. He may even carry me at times. But He will never leave me. How do I know? Because He has promised, and Because He Lives, I can trust that He will keep that promise.

Everything He does and everything He allows is part of a greater plan to draw me and others closer to Him and to reveal His glory among other aspects of His character. If it's for His glory, surely I can face uncertain days, no matter what they contain. He will never leave me or forsake me. He Lives.

 
Because He Lives

God sent His son
They called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal, and forgive
He lived and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove my savior lives

Because He lives, I am face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just 
Because He lives

How sweet to hold a newborn baby
And feel the pride and joy he gives
But greater still the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain day because Christ lives

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just
Because He lives

And then one day, I'll cross the river
I'll fight life's final war with pain
And then as death gives way to victr'y
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just
Because He lives. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Almost Ashamed

She was cold. She was tired. She was thirsty. But mostly, she was hungry. Truth be told, she was starving. She was, in all reality, dying from hunger. All of her family was gone. Their bodies had surrendered to the fight days ago.

She had one other problem though. She had no money. She didn't have a single penny to her name. At this point, she was going to have to steal if she ever wanted to eat again. 

"Who cares?" she thought. "Even if I get caught, at least I'll have shelter and they'll feed me."

These wouldn't have been her thoughts under normal circumstances. She knew stealing was wrong. She knew it was a sin. But in conditions like this, the brain makes us do crazy things. 

After days of walking, eating nothing but a stale piece of bread, the only food she'd had to bring with her, she finally made it into a town that the famine hadn't affected. It was full of life and energy and . . . food! She walked past a stand and grabbed an apple as she kept going. She found a hidden place to eat, but she had already drawn attention. 

The condition of her body was enough to let people know she was starving to death and that she was desperate for food. They'd had their eyes on her from the second she stepped foot into their precious town. They "knew" she'd try to steal food. 

As soon as she took the first bite of that sweet apple, they were upon her. They grabbed her and marched her through town as if she were on display. Through the entire walk, she heard remarks from the townspeople. 

"Don't give her our resources!"

"She probably only stole from us so she could go to jail and get free food!"

"Pretty soon everyone from wherever she came is gonna hear how good she has it and they'll be here next!"

"They'll overrun our town! They'll eat all our food! Pretty soon we will be the ones starving!"

She tried not to cry and make more of a spectacle of herself than she already had, but it was difficult. Where was the compassion? In her town, in her family, she had been raised quite differently than this. Even in her sickened state, she recalled verses her father had read from his Bible, in Matthew 25, shortly before the starvation took hold of him. 

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.'

Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?'

And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.'"

She then recalled the next part of the parable, where the people on the left were criticized for not doing those things for him and how they asked him when had they neglected him in that way. 

"And he will answer, 'I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.'"

Even in her near death state, she knew her father was right and these people were wrong. 

Would justice win out or would the townspeople have their way?


The above story is a sad one. How terrible that a town wouldn't welcome a dying woman and meet her needs. How awful that they would turn her away and be afraid of others "like her" coming to have their needs met, needs that couldn't be met in their own hometown. How horrendous for this dying woman. People aren't really like this though. Right?

Friend, I'm here to tell you, today, that it is because of a situation of this type that I am almost ashamed to call myself a Christian. 

You see, a dying man, a man that couldn't get sufficient help in his own country, came to us for help. Maybe he did it the wrong way. I don't know. I do know that any one of us would have done whatever it took to get life saving help. And we did help him, but we criticized him and complained throughout the entire process. We said that if he got better then he should be put on trial for his deeds. We were angry with him. We called him names. We prayed that his illness wouldn't spread to us. We prayed that his sickness wouldn't affect us. 

Did any of us actually pray for his healing? Did any of us plead with God on his behalf? Did any of us bring his case before the throne of the Great Healer and ask Him to make this man better? Did any of us give of our resources to help this man who was dying, not only physically but possibly spiritually as well?

It's not enough to be a missionary and go "over there" to help them out, if we can't even welcome them to "our" country with open arms and any prayers and resources we have to aid in their recovery.

We were/are so worried about US that we didn't take time to realize this was a person. This was a human created in God's image. He was no different than any of us. 

I can only hope and pray that God isn't as ashamed of the way we acted as I am. I can only hope and pray that He is more merciful and gracious to us than we were to this man. I can only hope and pray that if/when another situation like this arises, we will step up to the plate and be the people He has called us to be. 

(By the way, since I never actually said it, if you're still wondering, I'm referring to the man who came over with Ebola.)


Friday, August 1, 2014

My Public Apology

I have to apologize. Tremendously. I have been so greatly blessed - especially in the last several years.

I have been giving wedding showers, baby showers, and diaper showers.

I have been given numerous gifts while in the hospital giving birth.

I have been prayed for. My NICU babies have been prayed for.

I have been given TONS of help. I have had people stay with me for weeks and help care for my millions of children while I recuperated from having yet another or was on bed rest so baby didn't come early.

Family members have opened their homes to us as we come in town for a visit. No one ever complains about the number of people we bring. No one complains about the noises the kids make or the crying of the babies. Not only do they not complain, but they help me out with them. Not to get them to shut up (though that might have something to do with it!!), but because they love them.

Friends and family members both have helped us financially and physically to get our vehicles up and running. They have both given random gifts of food or toys or cleaning supplies or etc, etc that, unknown to them, helped us make it to the next payday or allowed to have something to give our kids for their birthday or Christmas when we otherwise wouldn't have.

My kids, my husband, and I have all been given birthday presents and Christmas presents. Family members have blessed my kids with Easter baskets and egg hunts.

Just a month ago, I was given a surprise birthday party. Each of my siblings and their spouses and children, along with my grandparents, and mom and Tim, drove TWO hours to meet me halfway for a surprise party. I thought I was meeting my sister and her youngest for lunch, but when I showed up, they were all there. If that isn't the sign of a person who is loved, I don't know what is!

So, what am I apologizing for? Well, I haven't been a very grateful recipient. I mean, I have been more than appreciative of all of the love and care and support, but I haven't shown it. I have not written a single thank you note. I have not made a single phone call to express my thanks. It's not that I don't think about it. I do. If I could remember it all and had unlimited hours, I would sit down and write a thank you to each person for each thing. I can't do that. I want to. I can't. So, for all of you that have been a part of the repeated blessings that have come our way, I'm SORRY. I'm sorry that I haven't shown you how grateful I am for you and what you did. I'm sorry that I haven't taken time out of my busy schedule to thank you for the specific deed/gift you sent our way. THANK YOU. Thank you for taking time out of your day to think of us. Thank you for being a blessing in our lives. We would not be who we are today if it wasn't for the kindness of our friends and family. Thank you for allowing God to use you to be a blessing in our lives. Not a single gift, not a single action, not a single moment of time went unnoticed. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. With deepest appreciation, thank you.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Update

Wow! Has it really been three months since I put "pen" to "paper"??? Time flies, but I didn't realize it was flying that fast! A lot has happened in the last few months so I guess I have a pretty good excuse.

We found a church home! We absolutely LOVE it there. We enjoyed where we were before and loved the people, but it was too easy to blend into the background instead of getting involved. We are now in a smaller church where I served in VBS as the preschool Bible story teacher. For those of you who have worked VBS with me in the past several years, you know that is out of my comfort zone. (I even helped decorate the preschool area!!) Registration is my niche! Paperwork is what I do. Not decorations! However, I decided it was time to stretch myself. I can't express how much I enjoyed that experience. We have also made some new friends there. I have joined the MOPs group that starts in September, and I'm getting ready to start teaching preschool Sunday school. Chase comes with me every week, but so far, his work schedule keeps him from being able to really get involved. It'll happen though. He can't help it. It's in his blood!

We were able - with the help of John and Beth, some of our new friends - to get Chase's truck fixed. Its tags and inspection are both current. It has Texas license plates. It drives great. Of course, we got it all finished right as summer hit, and it doesn't have an ac, so he still doesn't drive it too often. BUT he can. That's the point. I don't have to be stuck at home for 13 hours a day. If I want the van, he will willingly take the truck.

In 3 1/2 weeks (August 25th), my precious "baby" girl is starting Kindergarten! Again, I know time flies, but didn't we just bring her home from the hospital yesterday??? She is SO super excited. We are homeschooling so it isn't as sad for mommy as it could be, but I'm not taking it easy either!

The biggest change is coming in March when we welcome baby #5! Elizabeth originally wanted another little sister, but then she decided that CJ needs a brother. She is now convinced that it's a boy. Jennifer and Samantha don't have an opinion, but they are already in love. They sit on opposite sides of me on the couch and rub my belly and talk to the baby. CJ has no clue what's going on!! We have two boy names picked out: Jason Lance (my favorite name as a kid/my dad's middle name) and Chance Michael (Chase's favorite name as a kid/his dad's middle name). We decided that, if this one is a boy, we will use Chance Michael. We have used all of the girl names we've had picked out. We were talking and agreed on Allison. I went through several middle names but neither of us really cared for any of them. I just stopped trying and figured it would come to us eventually. Chase wasn't really giving any names but suddenly started laughing. Apparently one of the girls was wearing a shirt with Rapunzel on it. He threw that out there to see the reaction they would give. It wasn't what he expected, but it got him thinking. He started naming all of the princesses when he came to Belle. He decided, if it's a girl, he wants her to be named Allison Belle. It's not really what I would have picked, but I think it fits, and it's growing on me every time I say it. So, March 16-ish, we will be welcoming Allison Belle or Chance Michael.

So, updates on our family isn't the reason I started this blog, and I don't want it to become about that. I have so many things God has been showing me that I want to share. It's just hard, after 3 months, to jump back into it. I needed some kind of transition post to get myself used to sitting down and taking the time to do it!


Tea Party - Jennifer (3), Samantha (2), Elizabeth (4)


Playing at the park - CJ (1)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Chivalry is Dead

Chivalry is dead . . .  and women killed it.

Several decades ago there was a feminist movement. Women (in general, not the entire population) decided that we can do everything men can do AND have babies. In passing, this statement is funny. Down deep, where it matters, this kind of thinking has stripped men of their masculinity. We have told men that we don't need them.

Men used to hold the door open for women. We told them we could do it ourselves.
Men used to lay their coats over a puddle of water so their woman could walk across without getting her feet wet. We told them this was demeaning to women.
Men used to help unload groceries from the car and move furniture so their woman wouldn't have to do the heavy work. We told them we didn't need their help.
Men used to sit at the dinner table with the family and have manners and polite, meaningful conversation. Unfortunately, we pushed them away. We decided it was sexist for women to be in the home and we traded all of this for jobs outside the home, for Girl's Night Out, for losing ourselves in our hobbies.

What did we get in return?

We have men who don't think twice before walking through a door and never look back to see if there is a woman they can hold it open for.
We have men who are so engrossed in their phones and other technology that they don't even notice if a car drives past and sprays water all over their woman from head to toe!
We have men who sit and play video games while their wives unload groceries and move furniture and they never even offer to lend a hand.
We have men who, if they join the family at the table instead of eating in the other room in front of the tv, burp and fart and can't hold a conversation to save their lives.

We complain that our men don't help us. We have pushed them to this lifestyle.

It's time for a change.

It's time to teach our boys that they have a responsibility to take care of women, those they know and complete strangers (giving up their seat, holding open doors, etc). It's time we instill in them the desire to be men and teach them how to do it.

It's time to teach our daughters that, though she can move furniture alone, though she can open doors herself, though she may be able to do everything a man can do and have babies, she is feeding his masculinity when she allows him to help her with these things.

It's time for men to step up and learn how to be a gentleman, even if they were never taught. It's time for men to humble themselves and to take pride in helping a woman. It's time for them to see it as the most manly thing they can do. It's time for them to realize that being a "knight in shining armor" isn't just about saving "the damsel in distress" but also about helping her in the calm, quiet times.

It's time for women to stop being so offended by men that are trying to be gentleman. Instead of pushing them away and calling it demeaning, we should encourage it. They are being kind, mannerly, friendly, and helpful. If a woman offered to help us with those things, we wouldn't think twice about it. We would welcome the help. Why is it so different if it's a man offering?

When I was younger, my parents told me something that has stuck with me all these years. "If you want a man to act like a gentleman, you have to expect it of him." Basically, don't get into or out of the car until he comes and opens the door for you. When entering or leaving a building, stand by the door until he opens it for you. When you arrive home with a car full of groceries, carry an armload in. Then just tell him, "I'm gonna go ahead and put these away while you bring in the rest." Expect it of him. Pretend like there is no other way of doing things. He may grumble at first. He'll probably complain a little. Continue expecting it of him. Allow him to regain his masculinity and  to see the joy in helping his woman.

I've had this topic on my mind for some time now. It's saddened me greatly to think that chivalry is dead. What do my daughters have to look forward to? How am I going to convince my son it's the high road when none of the other guys are doing it? And then, I got a little ray of hope.

I was out with my 4 year old, 3 year old, 2 year old, and 1 year old buying two weeks worth of groceries. Visiting three different stores to get the best prices and enjoying lunch out with my kids at McDonald's . . . well, this is an all day affair. It usually takes 5 hours to get it all done. It's hard work. When leaving McDonald's trying to get the girls all headed in the correct direction, while carrying CJ, the diaper bag, my purse, and my drink, getting doors open wasn't easy. Of course, I do this every other Friday so I'm used to it and have my system figured out. It would be very easy for me to deny help and do things the way I always do.

So, to the little boy who patiently held open the door of the Playplace while we were leaving and smiled the entire time, THANK YOU!!! You put aside your wants of food and play to help out a lady in need. You slowed down long enough to realize that there are other people in this life and not just you. You took time to notice those around you. You were mature enough, at your (approx) 10 years of age to realize that life does not revolve around you. I pray that my "thank you" and "you're such a gentleman" were encouraging to you. I pray that they caused you to feel like a man. I pray that they helped you to see that you were doing the right thing.

To the man in the Aldi parking lot. THANK YOU! I was loading kids and groceries in my car as you drove up. You parked in the space adjacent to mine. With no one else around, it wasn't difficult to see you, especially with my 2 year old waving at you. You went in and bought your few items. When you came out I was still loading, though almost finished. You put your things in your car and then you slowed down your life. You took the time to come over, hand me the rest of my groceries as I put them in the car, return my baskets to the front of the store (all the way across the parking lot), and return my quarters to me. You smiled and carried on a polite, friendly, UNflirtatious conversation the entire time. You were clearly not in it for anything except the privilege of helping someone in need. Truthfully, you could have gotten in your car and driven away, and I would have been just fine. I had already done that three times that day at Wal-Mart, Dollar Tree, and McDonald's. I didn't need you. You didn't care. You were a true gentleman. I wish I had more to offer than a simple "thank you" and so, just like with the little boy, I pray that you were encouraged by being able to help. I pray that, just as I received a blessing from being helped, you received an even bigger blessing from being a help. I pray that it showed you that you made the right decision and that you will continue offering your help to people in need. I pray that your masculinity was affirmed through that act of kindness.

Both of you restored my faith in humanity and made me realize that, though chivalry is dying, it has not been completely snuffed out. Maybe, just maybe, chivalry isn't dead.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

A First!!!

Wow! I knew it had been a while since I've posted anything, but I didn't realize it has been almost a month! I have time each day to get on here, but with a 4 year old, a 3 year old, a 2 year old, and two 1 year olds, I don't have time to think! So, I tend to put it off even though I have tons of things I feel God is wanting me to share.

Anyway, I have a few rare moments of quiet, and I did my very first DIY project yesterday! I'm so excited that I just had to share.

Right now, CJ doesn't have a dresser for his clothes. They are just stacked on a bookshelf. That works great . . . until they're old enough to pull everything off the shelves and unfold all of the clothes! Then, it can be a pretty big mess. I knew I was going to need to do something pretty soon since he is getting mobile, but dressers can be pretty pricey. I was wracking my brain trying to figure out what to do to save myself from some unnecessary stress in the very near future.

A couple of months ago our neighbors moved out and were taking some furniture to the dumpster that they didn't want anymore. In apartment life, it is common to leave unwanted items next to the dumpster as "free game" for anyone who wants it. Before she took it down there, she asked if I wanted it (two small dressers and one large dresser). She told me they were pink, and I thought they'd look adorable in my girls' room so I told her yes. Then she brought them to me . . . YIKES!!!


She failed to mention that her daughters had colored all over them, the handles (I already removed them before taking the pic.) were broken, and the paint was peeling. I didn't want to hurt her feelings by taking them to the dumpster so I just stuck them in the corner and used them to stack stuff on. When I was looking for a resolution for CJ's room, I remembered these small dressers.

Now, I've never painted anything before . . . in my life - besides t-shirts, using fabric paint. I had no idea where to start. Thankfully, my sister is a DIYer and is full of advice. I don't know what I'd do without her. She talked me through everything I would need, while she was on a date with her husband. He's a good man for sharing her!

All of that said, here is the project:


My first task was finding a place to spray paint. If I was in my own home, I'd do it in the grass and let it wear off eventually. But I'm not. And that gets frowned on in an apartment. So, inside, by the back door was my option. I used shower curtains from Dollar Tree and packaging tape to block everything off. (I also have a baby gate between the living room and kitchen where a certain 2 year old and 1 year old stood screaming for me to let them in!)

CJ's room is done in a Texas Rangers theme so I wanted the dressers to match. These are the colors I used. It only took one can for each dresser. I got them at Wal-Mart for $3.77 a can. 

I wanted knobs that looked like baseballs, but Terrell doesn't have much to choose from, so I got these white knobs from McCoy's. They were $1.19 each. Not cheap but my only choice, and I supported my husband's store, so it's a win either way.


 With such a limited space, I had to wait for the first dresser to dry before being able to paint the second, so it was an all day project. After they were both dry enough to handle, I removed the drawers and painted the edges. A few more hours passed, and they were ready for knobs and to be put back in the dressers.


All I have to do now is carry them upstairs   :-/   and fill them with little boy clothes!!! They're not beautiful, but they're my first ever project, so I'm excited about them anyway.

Now to find something else to put in the corner by the front door to stack stuff on . . .