Monday, January 4, 2016

The Que Sera Christmas

This post was fresh in my mind over the holiday.  Itching to break free and find life in the interwebs... but, alas, I've been sidetracked by pork dumplings, meatballs, and tree demolition.  And my current guiltiest pleasure... Blacklist.

I'm going to digress here and there as I attempt to reawaken the phrases that kept running through my mind.  Since the poetry escapes me.. I'm going to say it out right.

This was THE most relaxed, non-stressful Christmas I've EVER had.  

EVER.

Since my children and the pressures of grown-up life anyway...

And that, my friends, is a BIG deal.  BIG. 

Even the hubs agreed and said so to others... which means truth.  We had a 4-H party at the house the week before.  Family over for dinner on Christmas.  My modest home had 25 humans in it at one point on Christmas day, and we all fit.  And talked and laughed.  And I didn't start breathing funny or have to wave my hands around my face in our closet to calm myself.  I set no time for dinner.  Jason deep-fried a turkey (which didn't freak me out as much as it normally would have), and we ate when we ate.  And it all worked out.  And it was good.  

We did all the usual things.  But without my usual meltdown. There is always some kind of meltdown.  The Christmas of 2011 will forever hold the place in history as the Christmas of the most epic meltdown.

But somehow, this year was better. The best.  And I failed in many ways.  There are still some lingering cards that need sent.  I never did bake the cookie plates for the neighbors.  They must think we hate them.  We didn't make the grandparents calendars. I had to work over "break", which is new this year and would normally have stressed me to the max.

We started the month out with a fantastic trip to Southern California to visit family and take the kids to Disneyland.  It rocked because we went without a major agenda, focused on the family time, and spent more time exploring LA and museums and trails than searching for theme parks or famous people.  Although, I shamelessly posed in front of Shakira's star on Hollywood Boulevard.
Because, SHAKIRA!

Maybe it was the week off with family free from our usual stressors. Maybe it was our approach to the holiday season. We focused on staying calm and doing what we could do.  I made like a duck and let the things I missed roll off my back instead of getting under my skin and causing grief.  We que sera'd what needed let be and talked to the kids about not expecting as many gifts because of Cali.

This year, like every year, I wanted my kids to really feel the true meaning of Christmas.  I wanted to feel the true meaning of Christmas.  When Grady prayed one night, "Please give us the strength to remember Christmas is not about the presents", my heart melted.

Just before bed on Christmas Eve, we read a few Christmas books, including my favorite Nativity story, "This is the Stable", and when I prayed with the kids that night, I broke down in tears... but the good kind of tears.  The tears just rolled when the enormity of Baby Jesus hit me and I couldn't breathe imagining the heavenly hosts and the reality of birth in a stable.  It's humbling and powerful and indescribable.

And Jason got that look in his eye when he came around the corner and saw me crying for no apparent reason. The PTSD meets "husband who wants to fix things"look.  He got a chuckle out of me trying to explain why baby Jesus and the angels was making me cry happy tears.... but I could tell he was relieved.

This was the best Christmas EVER because somehow we let it be what it was.

Now if I can have that attitude for all of 2016...


Monday, October 19, 2015

Rethinking Pro-Life

This is a topic where my insides scream and sob and my fingers can't begin to type what my heart is crying.  I just sit here with tears rolling down my cheeks, and I don't even know where to begin.  So forgive me, because it's messy and raw, and I can't seem to make it all line up like it should.

This is a topic where everyone draws a line and chooses sides and wants it all to be black or white.  

This is a topic that has gotten so legalistic and Pharisaical in my Pentecostal Evangelical world that I just want to scream.

We are missing the point.  

We are alienating and labeling so many women.  So many doctors.  So many people. So. Many.

And here I am.

Struggling and sick to my stomach about how to deliver a Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice message to my group of teenage girls.  Dreading the topic because I can't wrap my heart around delivering a message clothed in legalism and judgement.  

First, I'm going to back up for a minute and clarify a few things. 

Do I believe life begins at conception?  Yes.

Do I believe abortion is wrong?  Yes.

Do I believe God has a plan for every life?  Yes. 

And that's why I can't. 

That's why I can't support arguments that put the majority of the focus on the murder of an unborn child and barely mention God's forgiveness available to every woman who chose abortion.  To every doctor who regularly aborts unborn children.  To those who make excuses or rationalize choice.

I can't do it.  

I can't because when I think of abortion, I don't cry for the baby.  My heart rips in two for that girl. That woman who went through it.  The one so many want to cast as the unwed she-devil who selfishly chose her life over the life of an innocent child.  It's so much easier to judge when we've made up our mind about the sinner ahead of time, isn't it?  

But I can't.  

I've sat in rooms with women who were contemplating abortion and listened... doing my best to appear unbiased.  I've cried with those who have come undone, reliving the abortion they didn't choose to have.  I've regretted not being there for friends who went through the procedure without telling me, thinking I would judge them because of my beliefs.  I've wept for that baby I never knew... but I've sobbed for the women who had to make that choice.

Here's the thing.  We'll just get it out of the way in case anyone is sidetracked by the thought.  
I've never had an abortion.  I don't truly understand.  By the grace of God, my unplanned pregnancy just happened to be with the man I married eight months later.

But God's grace is for us all.  Not just me and my less than innocent, but abortionless, past.  

And here's the thing I think I am struggling with the most.  We profess that our God is omniscient and all-powerful and then bemoan the loss of an innocent life like God had no control over it.  

What?  Did we just give Planned Parenthood more power than our God?

I'm going to argue something different.  I'm going to argue that God knew from conception, that every life lost to an abortion was going to end when it did.  That "harlot" didn't foil God's plan.  That abortion clinic on the corner isn't single-handedly ridding our world of potential.  

I'm going to argue, because I know it to be true... what the enemy intends for evil, God works for good... (Genesis 50:20).  I'm going to argue that every tiny soul lost to abortion, God uses for good. My God is stronger than politicians and abortion clinics and legalism and picketers full of hate.  My Jesus would never hold a sign and scream "Murderer" to a woman full of fear, walking into a clinic.  He would hold out open arms and show her grace.  He would draw a line in sidewalk chalk and invite those of us without sin to continue holding our signs (John 8:3-11, loosely translated).  And we would have to drop them all and walk away.  And He would show her Love.  He would show her Grace.  And if she chose her abortion any way... He would use it for Good.  Because my God is in control.  And my God loves with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).  He can rebuild us all from the past that has made us crumble.   

My Jesus died for the woman who has chosen abortion over and over and is proud to shout it out. My Jesus died for the girl who had her choice made for her over twenty years ago and still cries herself to sleep at night.  My Jesus died for the doctor who performs abortions every day. My Jesus died for everyone.  His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9) and His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).

While there are so many who want to focus on the loss of life, the murder of an unborn child... I'm rejoicing because every one of those babies is in Heaven right now, being loved by their Father.  And He is using their death for good. When we focus on crucifying women and doctors and politicians, we aren't really as pro-life as we think we are.  If we truly want to be pro-life, we need to love all the lives involved.  We need to love that woman, that doctor, that politician, that lobbyist. We need to show forgiveness and open our arms and be Jesus.  Because that's what He expects from us.  That's why He died for us.  

Where sin increased, grace increased all the more... Romans 5:20.  

As I write this, my tears are falling for women...  I want them to feel His love and forgiveness and be able to walk freely in His Grace, regardless of their past.  I want them to know God values their life as much as He values every other life.

As I write this, my tears are falling for my girls.  The teens I hope never have to make that choice or have it made for them.  The teens I pray learn to love as Jesus loves... with open arms and abundant grace, so they can truly show the world what pro-life means.  

Monday, August 10, 2015

Back in the Wheelbarrow

I haven't been in a very good place lately... since my rant of January, I've struggled to find some forward momentum.  Work has sucked more than ever.  I'm overwhelmed with life and struggling to comprehend the tragedies hitting those who are so dear to me.  I'm questioning too much, and spending a lot of time fighting back tears I should probably just let fall.

My fingers are itching to type, and my crazy roller coaster of a mind has surely had some great tracks to record in the last few months... but I just couldn't get the two together.  At least not until today. I'm feeling a little nostalgic, so bear with me.

When I originally started blogging, I wanted to be funny... funny homemaker mommy blogger who made jokes about silly things and kids and life.  Then I started following lots of amazing women on social media and started feeling the pressure to find a focus... develop a brand.  A blog about something.  One thing.  The thing.  The topic that would make me cool and unique.  Crap.  

That was too much.  

I tinkered with fitness.  I'm a runner at heart, but I'm not too fast, and I'm not too fit... so...Crap.

Then there's homesteading.  We farm.  We garden.  We forage.  We hunt and fish.  We build things out of other people's junk.  But, we aren't off the grid or homestead-y enough.  At least not compared to those people in Mother Earth and Grit and Pioneer... so... Crap.

Aha.  Fashion.  No... I can't even put all my clothes away, let alone organize them into outfits or get it together enough to do a capsule wardrobe....Crap.

Foodie blog.  I can. I make fresh sausage.  I bake cakes.  I dehydrate everything I don't can.  I do all sorts of crazy things with food.  But I rarely follow a recipe exactly... and I can't compete with Hank Shaw or Alton Brown.  So... Crap.

Well, I could be a Christian mom blogger.  I adore Beth Moore.  I would die to be featured on (in)courage.  But I'm too cynical, and I really like IPA.  And I've already said "crap" five or six times in one blog post.  yeah...

So.

I don't have a niche.  Or a brand.  Or a point, really.

That coupled with the fact that I've been kind of an MIA grump lately.  I've battled some guilt from my January rant.  So much so that I edited my original post about the lost boys.  It's not my place to single people out or rally for children's ministry.  Nothing I say or blast on the Internet is going to change someone's heart.  And it was pretentious and Pharisaical of me to think I had a right to point fingers or jump to conclusions about the status of anyone else's heart for God. 

God has been spending the past few months pressing me to look at my own heart.  And I've been kind of stubborn about it.  He is still working on me...  He probably will be until I'm dead.  And I'm okay with that, because all I need to be is okay with letting Him be in charge of my life... and my blog.

Today, it was crystal clear that I need to get over not having a niche.  I need to be okay with the fact that I will never have a fitness sponsor or my own recipe book or a featured article in Mother Earth.  I need to let go of my own agenda and secret desire to have fame and fortune for doing nothing more than living my life and drinking an IPA while I blog about randomness.   I need to get my butt back in the wheelbarrow and let God steer me in the right direction 

I'm not kidding. 

It couldn't have been more clear. 

Today our worship leader said (as we walked in LATE to church AS USUAL) that she remembered hearing those stories about people who would climb in a wheelbarrow and let someone else push them as they walked across a tightrope.  How scary would that be?  And I smiled.  Pretty scary.  

Today, our pastor talked about how we need to actively FOLLOW Jesus.  We can't just passively believe and call it good. If we don't choose Him first, above all else... then it doesn't matter what we do.  So.  That's what it came down to for me.  That's my brand.  

Jesus.

Jesus is my brand.  I decided to follow Him a long time ago, and I can't fall into the trap of letting something else come first.  

I can't crack under the pressure to find something else cool and unique and Twitterific.  

It doesn't matter what I blog about here or how many people read my posts.  What matters is I let you see my heart for God in everything I do and everything I write. 

I'm all the things I said before...and more.  Mom, wife, runner, foodie, fashionista, bargain shopper, homesteader, farmer, gardener... but above all else, I'm a child of God.  I've chosen to accept Jesus as my Savior, and that is not the easy path.  But I've decided to follow Him... and nothing else matters (cue Metallica (which is totally inappropriate)).

I'm back in the wheelbarrow, and I'm hoping I can do a better job of sharing my ride.

Thanks to those of you who have hung in there and asked me to keep posting. Your encouragement meant a lot. 

Welcome to those of you who are new and wondering what level of crazy I really am. You will soon find out.  ;) 





Thursday, January 8, 2015

Time and the Lost Boys

I'm pretty sure there hasn't been a day in my life where I haven't wished for just a little more time. There's always one more thing needing finished, one more show needing watched, another game to play or mile to run.  Yeah - I covet time.  Maybe these days more than ever, but I'm not so sure about that.

Since I'm "young" and naive, I simply wish for retirement.  You know, the days when I will have all the time in the world?  Okay, well, I'm not naive, because my wise, retired friends have already clued me in about being busier than ever in retirement.

What do we do with our time anyway? The good Lord gives us all the same amount of hours each day.  Ideally we sleep for eight (although you know I sleep much less).  These days most of us work for another eight.  That leaves us eight hours a day for driving, cooking, cleaning, eating, visiting, snuggling, reading, praying.... etc.  Where the heck does it go?

I have a pretty good idea of where mine goes.  Driving two hours a day to work and back.  Hours of chores each week after work taking care of winged and non-winged animales (yes, I meant the Spanish spelling). Wasting time on Facebook and Pinterest and watching Netflix or Amazon Prime long after the kids have been tucked in.  I am a complete time WASTER.

Here's the thing.

I don't own my time.  Any more than I own my money or my own breath.  Everything I have.  Everything I am.  It is straight from God.  He's the One in charge.  I know I forget that.  A lot.  A super duper lot.  I second guess our finances all the time.  We are fairly faithful tithers... but I know without a doubt, this year... again... our tithe won't match the exact ten percent once our taxes are said and done.

Why is that?  In Malachi 3:10 - God says, "Test me in this."  He is in charge.  Our money is His, whether we tithe it or not.  God doesn't need our money.  It's in the power of giving where the real work is done.  It's in the power of trusting where the real growth happens.  I am without excuse.

I think we get selfish.  We forget our time and money was never ours.  We want control.  We want to dole it out as we see fit...  We struggle with the feeling of never having enough, of always being behind, and we hold some back to make ends meet.

God doesn't really need our time either.  He created the world and everything in it in a week, and He took a whole day off!  I'm lucky if my house is recognizable after six days... let alone if anything good has been created.  Who am I to play the expert of time?

Lately I have been on a reorganization kick.   During the past week of this New Year, I have spent the bulk of my free time cleaning or moving things around.  The laziest of the down times have been spent on Pinterest looking for more organization ideas. The point I am trying to make is that I haven't spent an ounce of time in the last week, with the exception of a church service, on God.  Not an iota in any way spending my time to further the Kingdom or my walk with Him.  When I think about the 24 hours God gives me... every. single. day. I get a pang of guilt.  How much of that do I really give back to Him?

Not much.  On a really good week, I *maybe* spend eight hours actively involved....praying, church, devotions with my kids, Missionettes.  That's less than half of ten percent.  (I just did really cool math on my computer calculator AND in my head!!) No matter how creatively I calculate... the reality is, I don't measure up.  I probably never will.

And, of course, this is all hypothetical.  God specifically challenges us to tithe our money.

Humor me, because I'm pretending I also live in an alternative universe where He has requested ten percent of our time.

Scratch that.

To make things more interesting, I'm going to go way out on a Biblical limb and say He actually requests 100 percent of our time.  He expects us to commit our LIVES to Him.  *Gasp*

Ten percent sounds really freaking easy after that, huh?

2.4 hours per day?  Cake.

Here's the thing.  We are lazy, selfish sinners who want our time to be about ourselves.  We think it's too hard to do extra when life has thrown so much at us already.  We make excuses for sleeping in or skipping church.  We create personal callings requiring little sacrifice and satiate our conscience.  We step down because we don't "feel called".  We interpret struggles as a sign that God has called us elsewhere.  We think we all deserve to retire from service to the Kingdom, just like we retire from work.  Guess what?  There are no Heavenly exemptions. God wants us to live our lives in service to Him.  When we don't... well...

The ones who suffer are the ones God has put in our paths to serve.  To witness to.  To build up. To pray for.  To be a light and a hope.  We are tangible, living, breathing beings.  We can't even begin to imagine the power we could harness for the lost if we would just COMMIT to serving.

I'm not perfect.  I am openly admitting my own guilt.  I am also throwing some pretty ugly pointer fingers right now.  I am beyond frustrated.  I am beyond manners and playing nice, because the ones who are suffering from the inability of the Body of Christ to follow through and SHOW UP FOR THE GAME are the children.  The boys who have never had a father figure in their lives.  The boys who are raising themselves.  The boys who don't know real men don't hit or abandon their families.  The boys who will never know that there was a Man who was God who bled and died because He loved them SO MUCH He gave His LIFE.  There are lost boys in our town looking for someone to guide them.

And we can't give two hours a week?! Forget 2.4 hours per day.

Today, I drove by a group of boys I know are living in those tough situations.  They were out in the pre-dusk hours wandering on the side of the road, wearing black and stumbling towards whatever meaning someone might show them.  And I fought back tears because I knew where they couldn't go.

Tonight, I watched eyes fill and faces fall when I told a few little boys they couldn't be with us after tonight.  And I bit my tongue so I wouldn't scream...  Where are the bloody men who attend this church?

One Man bled for us all. Jesus took the nails and the cross even though it kind of messed with the rest of His day.

He showed up when He didn't have to.

He made a way so we wouldn't continue to stumble in the dark.

He called the little children unto Him.

And we have the gall to say we are too busy.

We have the the impudent, self-righteous nerve to look the other way and stay at home when there are boys in our community who are as lost and searching as any boys could ever be.  Are our consciences so satiated no sermon will awaken them?  Does the fact that the women are busy ministering to the girls and doing their best to fill in with the boys and stretched as thin as the ozone just not bother anyone?

Obviously not.  And obviously not to the point that the few who were struggling to meet the needs of our lost boys threw up their hands and threw in the towel.  Because no amount of cajoling and glossed over sermons could convict any more men in our congregation to find an hour or two on a Wednesday night.

Because we can't just cut to the chase and be painfully honest.

My boys don't get Rangers anymore because not enough men from the church show up to lead.  It's not really about reorganizing anything.  We had more boys showing up than men who attend our church, and it wasn't safe anymore.  It's about our church's inability to answer the call.

Here's the real truth.

I'm not in tears tonight about my boys.  I'm in tears because of the boys I saw wandering the streets. I'm in tears because of the tears welling up in the eyes of the seven year old who counts on being somewhere safe every Wednesday night and just found out he won't have that anymore.

My boys won't miss a beat.

But other boys may lose everything.

And I'm assuming we can all live with that.

Even though Christ Himself died to ensure it didn't have to happen this way.




And all the people said, 'Amen.'



Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!!

This year, I won't be resolving anything.  I've signed up for a CHALLENGE!!!

Woohoo!

This is a short and sweet version of my previous post... it was funny, engaging, and full of witty sarcasm.  And then the Internet ate it.  Gone.

All gone.

I was too shocked to cry.

In short, (because I'm mad and it's already way too late) 2015 is the year of the 52 Weeks to An Organized Home Challenge.  And since I started the last week of December, this isn't related to a resolution.  I almost didn't want to commit, but it was set up in Nicole-sized bites.  So I bit.

My Family Calendar is hanging in true geek fashion on my fridge.  I've got birthday, meals, runs, challenge tasks, paydays and bill days marked in all their sticker glory.  This is probably year five of a family calendar... and I look forward to it every year.  Always there...not always kept up (like other things in my life), but always loved.

My next task is the kitchen counters and sink.  I'm glad I have a week for every task!!

And, I will start the year by being honest.

I changed some of the tasks.

We are farmer/homesteaders.  My springs and summers and falls... okay, and winters, look a lot different than the average suburban household.  Seriously... we would probably have to go to family therapy if I spent my summer months in the house going through DVDs and photos.  So, I switched some things around and added farm and garden chores.  And since we don't have an attic or a basement, I had some leeway to make changes.  Photos and DVDs will have their weeks... in October, when outside chores are done.  I love my marriage...and my ducks.

Y'all are about to see the dark and dirty parts of my life.  My goal is to post each week about this challenge. No holds barred.  It will get ugly.  I might be reserved in person, but I'm shameless on my blog.

Today, I started working on the countertops... which created a domino effect.  Soon I was asking the kids to help get their toys and clothes out of the living room.  My youngest pipes up, "Why Mom?  Who's coming over?"

Uhhhhh..... yeah.