Friday, October 26, 2012

Moses and Me

My life has had some major upheaval lately. I mean apart from the baby and all of that. For the past seven years, I've been a part of the drama ministry at my church. I write scripts, I act, I direct. It's always been a lot of fun, and I'm good at it.

But.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
I think God saw me getting too comfortable. I got the feeling that he wanted me to leave the safety of my church walls and participate in the local theater scene. Salt and light and all that. I prayed and prayed about it, and the answer became clearer and clearer. So, with great peace, I resigned from the drama ministry.

But.

God still wanted me serving inside the church walls. And I felt that he was pushing me toward the kids' ministry. Elementary school kids. My kids are four and under. I've taught junior high and high school kids. Why on earth would elementary school be the place for me?




A Short Play by Rachel
"Buts and Nopes"

Scene: RACHEL is in her bedroom, praying.

RACHEL:     So, I think I'm supposed to go help out in the kids' ministry.

GOD:            Yep.

RACHEL:     No, like the elementary kids' ministry.

GOD:            Yep.

RACHEL:     But—I don't wanna.

GOD:            Well, you should. I need you there.

RACHEL:     Naw, not me. I don't have anything to offer!

GOD:            Sure you do. Don't I know you better than anyone? It'll work.

RACHEL:     But maybe you forgot that I don't really work with kids this age. 

GOD:            Maybe you forgot that I'm God. If The Almighty is asking you to do something, maybe you should—I don't know—stop arguing? Just do it.

RACHEL:     Ha! God knows what Nike is!

GOD:            I love your sense of humor, Rachel! Your obstinance is something else, though...

RACHEL:     I'm made in your image, you know.

GOD:            And I'm a great listener. You, not so much.

RACHEL:     Ha! But I can't...

GOD:            Rachel. Stop making excuses. Just go.

RACHEL:     Fine. But if I crash and burn, I'm holding you responsible!

GOD:            Fine! But you won't. Trust me.


END SCENE.


I felt a little like Moses. Not the parting-of-the-Red-Sea, confident Moses. The I-don't-wanna Moses. When God first asked him to go back to Egypt, Moses came up with every excuse in the book. 

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” - Genesis 3: 10-13

Moses made no less than five arguments against doing what God asked of him. I'm pretty sure I made at least that many. But I went. And you know what?

It was exactly where I needed to be.

Turns out that the director of the children's ministry had been praying for strong leaders last week, so my e-mail to him was an answer to his prayers. Isn't that cool? He got another e-mail last week, too, and when he introduced me to the other volunteer, it turned out to be a friend from my small group! Small world, huh? By the time I finished on Sunday, I knew it was the perfect place for me. Not only did I feel useful, but I really enjoyed the kids. So God was right. Chalk another one up for The Almighty!

It was really hard to step out in faith, especially somewhere I wasn't comfortable. But since these decisions were made, I've felt joy and peace like I've never had before. Obedience has its own rewards. I'll take 'em!

Do you find it difficult to be obedient and step out in faith? What are the rewards?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I Hate My Love Language

So there's this book by Gary Chapman called The Five Love Languages. It's about the ways we prefer to give and receive love and how to give others love in the way they best receive it. The five love languages are Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, and Receiving Gifts.

When my husband and I first got married, I thought my love language was Quality Time, and maybe Words of Affirmation was up there, too. You know what my language really is?

NOW I feel loved!
Receiving Gifts.

Yes, I'll admit to what feels like the most shallow of the love languages. I love getting gifts. And since Friday was my birthday, I knew my husband would get me a great gift! I thought it might be some earrings to match a garnet ring I got at an antique show in the spring—and it was!

And they were awful. Apart from them not matching the ring at all, they weren't even my style. Despite my reputation for being a good actress, I can't seem to mask disappointment in opening a gift. Curses!

Now, my husband is a very thoughtful gift-giver. He listens and tucks away in his brain things I've said or things he thinks I'll like. And that works at Christmas, but he's terrible with my birthday for some reason. Maybe he tries too hard at my birthday? I don't know. But I nearly let it ruin my day on Friday! Mostly out of guilt that I didn't like his present—yet again. He told me not to feel that way and that he'd rather know so we can get something I like and will actually use. Still. I felt terrible.

I spent the weekend thinking about why Receiving Gifts is my love language. When I was young, money was tight, but I always got at least one great gift at Christmas. Not necessarily the most expensive thing, but something I really wanted. I also loved it when my dad surprised me on Sweetest Day with a rose or something. When I got to high school, I dated my best friend for ten seconds, and we broke up right before Christmas. He got me a bath set in some nasty scent—freesia, I think. Really? My best friend can't think of something more unique to me than a bath set? I really don't like getting bath things. It's like, "Oh, you're a girl. You must like to bathe and smell clean. Here you go!" Blecch.

So maybe I just want the thoughtfulness required in gift-giving. Or because we didn't have tons of money growing up, maybe someone splurging on a gift for me is just exciting. Whatever the reason, that's my love language.

And I hate it.

I don't like feeling disappointed when I get what I perceive to be a sub-par gift. I don't like that my husband also has to feel disappointed when he gets me a gift he's excited to give me and it's not what I wanted. I don't like feeling materialistic!

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. - Ephesians 2:8

But you know what? I'm made in God's image. God loves gifts—giving them and receiving them. He's given us spiritual gifts to develop and use. He gives us blessings, both tangible and intangible. He's given us grace, which is pretty much the best gift he could give us. Our praise and worship are our gifts to him because we love him so much. We also give him our lives and our obedience.

And, being made in his image, I give at least as many gifts as I receive—probably more. Just like God. And is God disappointed in our gifts sometimes? Probably. When we don't put time or effort into them and simply give him our leftovers, I'm sure he's a bit disappointed. He wants our best gifts, just like I want someone's best effort. We all have something different to offer, but we can all offer our best. And then God will give us his best in return. And that's pretty awesome.

Hmm. Maybe I can live with this love language after all.

What's your love language? How is that language a reflection of God?

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Birthday Girl

Today is my birthday. I generally enjoy my birthday. I wake up feeling excited about the day ahead and the surprises in store for me. I know I get to spend the evening with my husband and our friends at one of my favorite places (although I'm not permitted to know all the details), so I'm looking forward to that.

But today I woke up feeling profoundly grateful. As I look back over the past 33 years (yep, I'm solidly in my 30s now!), I can see God's hand moving in my life at every point along the way. I'm incredibly blessed. My little family is beyond anything I could have imagined. Makes me glad that God is more creative than I am!

At this moment, I am more than content—I'm happy. I know happy doesn't always last—and that's OK—but I'm going to enjoy it in this moment.

I couldn't help but spend my waking moments praising God and thanking him for my life. Even though there's been plenty of good and plenty of bad, I know he was there all along. I love that he's so caring and interested in our lives. He loves us so much, and I woke up feeling just how much he loves me. It was kind of like a big hug from God.

And that's an amazing birthday gift.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Little Miss Can't Be Wrong

Yesterday, my son said to me, "Mama, you are silly all the day long." I replied, "Is that OK? Do you not want me to be silly?" "Of course you can be silly," he said.

Well, I was probably going to stay silly whether he gave me permission or not. Silliness is a trait of mine that is quite essential to my personality, I think.

But what traits are not essential to my personality? Quite a few, surprisingly. Like sarcasm. I find that, while funny sometimes, sarcasm is really unnecessary. It's mostly used to make people feel bad, or it's used to make myself feel smart at someone else's expense. I've tried to cut down on the amount of sarcasm I use in the past few years, but it's hard. I mean, in fifth grade, my teacher called me the Queen of Sarcasm. Fifth grade. That's a lot of unlearning to do.

Sometimes it's hard to weed out which aspects of our personalities need to change and which ones are central to our being. Traits are formed over a lifetime. Some we begin when we're young, some we begin when we get older and life gets busy or complicated.

Don't I look smug? This picture says,
"I dare you to play Jeopardy with me."
One trait that I wish, wish, wish I could get under control is my know-it-all-ness. I am an insufferable know-it-all sometimes. While growing up, I was mainly noticed for my intellect. I was a very early reader, great in school. I was nothing if not smart. I wasn't pretty, I wasn't talented. I was smart. That seemed to be all I had, according to most of the adults in my life. I know I'm more than that now, but I still cling to that label. I want to be the first to answer, have the best answer, and prove all others wrong. And really rub it in. I even had an advice column in college called "Miss Know-it-All." The worst part is that I can hear myself acting this way, and it's like a freight train. I can't stop it. I'm already in the middle of an obnoxious sentence, and I clearly can't stop mid-sentence and say, "Pardon me. I must stop this sentence before I reveal that I'm an insufferable know-it-all." Ugh. I feel that would only make things worse.

I know this behavior is annoying. It doesn't make any friends, it doesn't improve my life in any tangible way. Sometimes it makes me feel self-conscious or hesitant to participate in discussions. Besides, I know the truth: there is more to me than my intellect. I'm funny, I'm talented, I'm not Quasimodo. I have more to offer than gray matter. And God knows that. If my life is supposed to point to Him in all I do, how does a trait like that point to him?

It doesn't. It points to me.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. - Romans 12:2


Sarcasm points to me. Being a know-it-all points to me. Pride, laziness, low self-esteem. Those traits all point to me, not to God. That's an easy way to decide whether a trait should be deleted. And I seem to need a lot of revisions, so that calls for a ton of prayer. Some of these are so embedded in me, there's no way I can get rid of them on my own. It also requires a great deal of humility on my part, as it appears I am not perfect.

I know. I'm just as shocked as you are.

But I know that when these traits are transformed into something God can use, he'll use me. Like crazy, he'll use me. I'm much more useful to him when I become who he made me to be. And that requires giving up the traits that only point to me and replace them with traits that point to him.

What traits point to you, and what steps are you taking to make them point to God? 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Ugly Pumpkin

Last year, my family went to a pumpkin patch at an orchard near our home to pick out our jack-o-lantern pumpkins. It was 80 degrees that day—far too hot for a trip to the pumpkin patch—but we endured.

Now, when I pick out a pumpkin, I like a perfectly round, slightly squatty pumpkin. Not the tall ones, not the ones with interesting shapes. My pumpkin needs to be perfect in every way. Kind of like this:


And the stem on that one is even a little too big for my liking. And I like it just a bit taller. See how picky I am? I want a perfectly-shaped pumpkin without a blemish! Surprisingly (or not, considering you read my blog), I'm not a perfectionist in most areas of my life. But in the area of pumpkins, I have very strict guidelines.

My darling son, however, is the patron saint of ugly pumpkins. He wants a little one—never a big one—and he gravitates toward the lopsided pumpkins with hardly any stem. He went to a farm stand with his grandparents the other day, and they let him pick out a little white gourd. Even that thing was pockmarked and lopsided. It's four inches across! How could it be lopsided? But it was. So, when we went to the pumpkin patch last year, this is the pumpkin my son chose:




I tried to talk him out of it. I brought him pumpkins that had a better shape, that had a longer stem, that were just prettier. No matter what I did, I couldn't talk him out of this lopsided little pumpkin. He loved it. I'm pretty sure he asked if it could sleep in his bed with him. And when we carved it, he wanted it to frown:


Can you imagine? His sad little pumpkin was even sadder by the time we were done with it. All the time I spent trying to pick out a perfect pumpkin (isn't my pumpkin just so perfectly round?), and he settled for that pathetic little thing? Clearly, he needs better instruction on how to pick out a pumpkin!

Or does he?

My son's penchant for ugly gourds has made me think about why I'm so set on having a "perfect" pumpkin. All I'm going to do is change it, anyway! Why do I want it to be perfectly round? Why does it matter so much to me?

And then it made me think about God. He wants the ugly pumpkins, too. He wants people with blemishes and imperfections. He wants to love them and transform them. My son was not embarrassed of his pumpkin like I was. He wasn't upset that his pumpkin wasn't perfect. My darling son loves his ugly little pumpkins the way God loves his imperfect people: wholly and unabashedly. 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:37-39

We are so embarrassed by the imperfections in our lives. Why? Nobody's perfect; that's why we need God. He expects improvement, but perfection only comes with Christ. The transforming power of grace is enough to overcome our blemishes. We just need to let God pick us up and love us. Whatever changes need to be made, he'll make them, but know that he loves you regardless.

Maybe this year I'll follow in the footsteps of my loving son and choose an imperfect pumpkin. Maybe. I can at least opt for a tall, skinny one. Baby steps, right?

Do you have a hard time embracing imperfections—or letting God embrace yours?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Chez Francois

When I was young, I spent my summers in northern Virginia with my grandparents and my aunt. Every so often, they would go to a magical, mysterious place called Chez Francois. It was (is) a restaurant on the outskirts of D.C., but it was so much more than that.

It was a place I was not allowed to visit.

Per my family, of course. They said I wouldn't appreciate it. From the way they described how fancy it was, I pictured a very modern dining room with giant glass window overlooking the mountains. (Note: There are zero mountains in the suburbs of D.C.) People ate fancy things like snails and caviar and drank wine. I can't picture my grandparents drinking wine, but it may have happened. I don't know! I wasn't allowed to go!

After my husband and I were married, we went to visit my aunt and my grandfather for Thanksgiving (my grandmother had passed away a few years earlier). They suggested we have our Thanksgiving dinner at Chez Francois.

What? Me? Go to Chez Francois? But I'm just a kid! I won't appreciate it!

Oh—wait. I was 26 by then. So we went!

L'Auberge Chez Francois
Turns out that L'Auberge Chez Francois is a little restaurant that looks like an inn, and it's nestled in the woods along a winding road. The entrees are very expensive, but they are very delicious. I ordered a dish with pork and apples (which seems to be my standard whenever I eat at a pricey restaurant. Pork and apples are fancy to me? I don't know). My husband and I ordered hot mulled wine. And Francois himself was eating dinner with his family a few tables over! He ordered champagne for the whole room and did a Thanksgiving toast. It was a wonderful experience.

And you know what? My family was right: I would not have appreciated a place like Chez Francois when I was younger. I wouldn't have appreciated the ambiance or the food—or the price tag. They were right to make me wait until I was old enough to appreciate it.

There are lots of Bible verses that talk about God's timing. He doesn't do anything, reveal anything, until the time is right in his eyes. And that could depend on many things, especially when it comes to us. When we ask God to do things for us or show us something, he can say yes, he can say no, or sometimes he says, "Grow." We need a little more time to mature, to understand and prepare our hearts for that stage in our life. If God revealed something before we were ready, we may not understand it or appreciate it.

We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you. - Psalm 33:20-22

God's love is unfailing whether we're waiting for him to answer us or not. We have to trust that he has our best interests at heart, even if that means not getting the answer we want exactly when we want it. And that's so hard. It's so hard to wait. Especially when what's waiting for us is so amazing! But, sometimes, we need more time to appreciate it. Like Chez Francois.

Have you had a "Chez Francois" moment with God? What did he reveal that was worth the wait?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Victim or Victor?

Today, I've got a guest post over at my friend Angela Mackey's blog, Rethinking My Thinking. Go check it out!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

American Idol Culture

I like reality shows, but minimally. My husband and I are half-watching The Voice this season. We catch American Idol every, oh, five seasons or so. I'll watch Dancing with the Stars if there's a celebrity I like. (My husband refuses to watch that one because of the half-naked women. Good man, that one.) We're not super attached to these types of shows, but we find them interesting if they're on.

The one thing I don't like about these shows is the viewer voting element. Suddenly, everything is about what the public thinks. Not just reality shows, either. If you want to win an online contest—everything from grants for charities to cutest baby—you have to have people vote for your entry. It's a popularity contest, but worse. If I can get people to vote because they know me, then they may not even care about my cause or know if it's worthy; they'll just click the button because I asked.

Vote for us! We need to know we're cute, officially,
since Mom is obviously biased.
The problem I see with this is that there are causes that are more worthwhile than others, people who are more talented than others, babies who are cuter than others. Yes, I'm a mom, so clearly my kids are the cutest in the world (even when my daughter's not wearing a hair bow and therefore looks a little like a boy), but I can at least admit that I'm biased.

Back in the day, these things were decided by experts. Or, at least, a panel of qualified people who had the opportunity to look at every entry and were encouraged to be as objective as possible in choosing a winner. Essay contests were judged by English teachers and authors. Dance competitions were judged by dancers and dance teachers. Someone who had experience in the event being judged. It wasn't all chosen by strangers on the Interweb.

I'm so glad God doesn't run things like a reality show. I'm going to be judged one day. What if God said, "OK, everybody call or text 'GO' to 1-800-555-HEVN to send Rachel up, or 1-800-555-HELL to send Rachel down. Voting ends at 10pm, so get your votes in now!"

Yikes.

My friends would get all of their friends to call the first number. People I may have wronged along the way would get all of their friends to choose the latter. And they would still only get the people who had the time on their hands to make the call. It would all be up in the air based on what the world thought of me. It would be terrifying.

Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure—you, the righteous God who probes minds and hearts. My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart. - Psalm 7:9-10

I'm so grateful that my Judge is an expert on the heart. He knows the real Rachel, knows my love for Christ, knows exactly who I am and who I'm trying to be. Everything is settled. I can have peace about it. It doesn't matter what the world thinks as long as I'm trying to live up to God's expectations and do my best.

If only it were that easy.

Even though it doesn't matter what the world thinks in the long run, I still seem to care about it. It's the worst.  It affects how I act and who I am. It affects my confidence. Some days I'm not even sure I would vote for me. It's such a hard thing to overcome.

If this is something you struggle with, too, head over to my friend Carey Scott's blog.Yes, I know I'm redirecting you instead of giving you answers right here, but it's a really good one. It's about taking every thought captive. We need to do that if we're going to stop doubting and fearing and all that rot. We have to remember that we always have God's vote—and his love.

Do you struggle with the American Idol mentality of caring what the world thinks? 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Hate Cancer

Does anyone like cancer? I would assume not. Maybe the Jerkface does. What a jerky jerkface.

Why would the Jerkface like it? Cancer does more than harm bodies. It shakes faith. It turns people against God. It breaks hearts. All things Satan loves.

And things that I hate.

Cancer is awful. It took my mother at a young age. It took her father and her uncle. It took my grandmother. I'm always looking over my shoulder waiting for it to sneak up on me. That's no way to live!

That's why I'm participating in my local Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5k walk for the American Cancer Society. No, my mom didn't have breast cancer. But if they can find a way to beat one kind of cancer, there's hope for beating all kinds of cancer. So I'm on board.

If you have a dog in this fight (and most of us do), I'm accepting donations on behalf of the American Cancer Society. I'm trying to raise $500 myself, and our goal as a team is $5,000. We'll get as close as we can!

Please click here to donate at my official American Cancer Society site. Thanks in advance for wiping away the Jerkface's smile.

Monday, September 17, 2012

You Are My Sunshine

All is well! I feel bad that I left you with an ER visit and then didn't tell you that I'm OK now. I had a complication after my surgery, but it's passed and I'm fine now. I appreciate all of your prayers!

Moving on...

I like to sing to my daughter. She loves it. She smiles and wiggles around, and she just can't get enough of it. My favorite song to sing to her is "You Are My Sunshine." I'm sure you've heard it:

You are my sunshine!
My only sunshine!
You make me happy
When skies are gray.
You'll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.

Isn't that sweet? Fun fact: it's Louisiana's state song. Sure beats whatever Indiana's is. "My Indiana Home," maybe? A song about "moonlight on the Wabash" is not quite as catchy as "You Are My Sunshine." What a happy song! What an uplifting song!

Well, you're wrong about that. Ever hear the second verse?

The other night, dear,
As I lay sleeping,
I dreamed I held you in my arms,
But when I woke, dear,
I was mistaken,
And I hung my head and I cried.

Oh. Well. Not quite so sunshiney, huh? I sing that verse, too. That's actually why I started singing "You Are My Sunshine" while I was pregnant. I really wanted my daughter to arrive, so I sang the verse about her not being here and how sad it made me. It's a truly depressing verse, so I'm not sure what compelled me to sing it to my belly. Hopefully it didn't depress my girl in utero. She's pretty smiley, so it doesn't seem to have fazed her.

Sometimes we like to focus on the happy things in life and ignore the less "sunshiney" parts. While I wouldn't encourage anyone to be a Debbie Downer all the time (which I was for the duration of my pregnancy—sorry!), you can't ignore the things you don't like about life.

Sometimes life is awful. Sometimes you suffer. Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes you can't be sunny. Sometimes you have to admit there's a second verse where you feel like crying.

And that's OK.

Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. - Ecclesiastes 7:2-4

When we experience sadness or trials, we grow. We learn. We become wiser. Jesus cried when things got rough. Jesus was scared. Jesus asked for his circumstances to change. That was the human part of him, so how much more would we, at 100% human, feel such things? The Psalms show every range of emotion—anger, sadness, happiness, and everything in between. We can bring all of those things to God. He wants to hear them. He wants to know our hearts.

Sometimes we as Christians feel like we have to put on a happy face and make people think things are fine when they're not. I used to be like that all the time; I used it as a shield. We've got to stop doing that. We're doing ourselves and the people around us a disservice. It makes people feel lousy when they're struggling and someone else seems to just dance through life with nothing bothering them. Yes, we have the joy of the Lord, but even the Lord knows life is going to be rough. He can carry our burdens. He can bring us peace. But there's a time to cry or a time to mourn (check Ecclesiastes 3). We're allowed that time.

But check I Peter 4:12-13:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Cry. Be upset. Pour your heart out to someone (especially to God). But then watch for God's glory to be revealed through your suffering. Will it make the suffering go away? Nope. But it may help you understand it a little bit better, and that will bring the wisdom.

Do you allow yourself to cry and grieve, or do you feel like you always have to have a cheerful front?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Need to Breathe

Yesterday, I had a surprise trip to the emergency room. I guess every trip to the ER is a surprise, but you know what I mean. I'm having weird pain after my gallbladder surgery, so they ran some tests to find out what the problem is. Nothing conclusive yet, so we'll see what the pain does in the next day or so. I apologize in advance for any typos—I'm lucky I can put together a coherent post with the pain meds. At least, I think I can...

George Clooney was not in my ER. Man!
The pain was right under my rib cage, and it got worse when I tried to breathe deeply. When I arrived at the ER, I could still breathe—with pain, but it wasn't impossible. I was still able to crack jokes with the hospital staff (per usual). After they got me into a room and I was waiting for the doctor, the pain got worse. I couldn't even take a shallow breath without severe, stabbing pain. I was dizzy and in tears. No more joking around, for sure.

I called the nurse to let him know the pain was much worse and that I was having trouble breathing. His response was, "Well, the doctor will see you when he can." And then he simply left.

But I. Can't. Breathe.

Then my husband arrived. (He had to wait on his parents to get to our house to watch the kids.) He saw the pain I was in and that I was having trouble breathing, so he went to the nurses' station and told them that I was in severe pain and couldn't breathe. Their response? "Well, the doctor will see her when he can."

Now, I know they need to see the most severe ER cases first. I know that. If someone's arm is severed or someone is bleeding and near death, they need attention first. I totally get that. I didn't expect a hoard of medical professionals to rush to my aid. But I expected someone to care. Breathing is pretty essential, from what I've heard. And it's scary not to breathe. I felt suffocated, and the more I tried to breathe, the less successful I seemed to be. I needed help.

Sometimes people can't breathe. Not physically, but emotionally or spiritually. They feel like they're drowning in their lives. They've experienced a tragedy, are in the midst of depression, or they're simply overwhelmed by life, and it feels like no air is available.

When we notice these people, what do we do? Do we come alongside them? Do we do what we can to help them breathe, whether it's prayer or simple friendship? Or do we say to ourselves the equivalent of, "The doctor will see them when he can?" and wait for someone else to take care of them?

As someone who is still working through some postpartum depression, I can tell you I've gotten mixed responses while I've been unable to "breathe." I've had friends who check up on me, pray for me, send me notes of encouragement, offer to help with the kids, try to get me out of the house and involved in my life again. They've encouraged me spiritually and emotionally, and they've done all they can to make me feel loved—whether or not I've been up to accepting it. On one of my really bad days when I first started thinking I might be dealing with PPD, one of my Twitter friends had me call her and she talked through it with me. I've never met Lauren Hale, but as someone who has experienced PPD, she knew I needed to talk to someone about it. So, essentially, even a stranger reached out to me because she could see that I was unable to breathe.

I've also had friends who haven't said or done anything to help. Not that I think they don't care about me (well, maybe they don't—I hope that's not the case!), but sometimes they don't know what to do or how to help. The result is that they just kind of ignore me until they think I'm feeling better. I'm not mad at them for it—I know it can be awkward when you don't know what to do or how to help. But it's a little disappointing, you know? And if you're one of my friends who's reading this and you think you may fall into this group, it's OK. I understand. I still love you!

I'd encourage you to take a look around your life. Is there anyone who seems to be having a hard time? Anyone who seems unable to breathe, emotionally or spiritually? Pray for them. Send them a note—even an e-mail—to tell them you're thinking about them and praying for them. You can offer further help if you feel prompted (meals, help at home), but offering love and prayer is doing something. Just noticing them is something.

You never know—it may be your love, attention, and prayer that helps them breathe again.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Peace, Love, and Hospital Karaoke

Well, I came home late in the evening after my surgery. My gallbladder is out, and I'm pretty sore. I guess that's to be expected when someone pokes holes in your tummy, right? But I'm apparently feeling well enough to blog, and I really want to tell you about my day.

I had a great peace about the surgery. I was terrified of the almost-surgery on my spine in late 2010. Terrified. I couldn't get peace with it. Thank goodness it was cancelled!

Today, I had nothing but peace. All. Day. Long. It was amazing. I think there are several reasons for this:

  • Per my post the other day, I am spending more time in the Word and more time with God. I started a Bible study at a local church. It's called Me, Myself, and Lies by Jennifer Rothschild. It talks about cleaning out your "thought closet" from all the lousy things we think about ourselves and making our thoughts and minds more like God's. It's fantastic, and I love spending time with it! It helped me to stop thinking about all those episodes of Grey's Anatomy where someone died on the operating table because they had a bad reaction to anesthesia or something. Because that's what I think about the day before I go into surgery. Naturally.
    I totally felt like I was the one in a smushed smooch
    sandwich today. So. Much. Love. Thank you!
  • I was absolutely, positively covered in love. Drowning in it, even. In a good way, of course. My friends, loved ones, and even some of my readers sent me texts, Tweets, and notes on Facebook that they were praying for me, or even just thinking about me. I know not all of my friends pray, but I really appreciate the time they took to tell me they were thinking of me and wishing me well. And I fully believe in the overwhelming power of prayer, so I felt the prayers of my friends like a blanket around me. It was amazing!  While I was saying goodbye to my son before I left him with his grandparents, he looked up and said, "Dear God, please protect my mommy." I loved all of your thoughts and prayers, but I do have to say that his was my favorite. 
  • I took it to God. I prayed for myself. I've always felt selfish doing it, but my friend Julie Gillies has an amazing new book coming out called Prayers for a Woman's Soul. I was fortunate enough to read some of it in advance, and believe that I'm going to be giving some copies away when it's released. It encourages us to pray for ourselves—not in a selfish way, but in the knowledge that God wants us to show him our hearts. He wants the best for us, always, and it's so encouraging to know that if we pray for ourselves in a right spirit, it's not selfish—it's essential. I can't wait for all of you to read Julie's book! It's so freeing.
  • I sang. I totally did. My husband laughed at me, and the nurses who walked by my pre-op room laughed and shook their heads. I'll be honest: I'm not big on Christian music. I think a lot of it sounds the same, so it's rare that a song catches my ear. But I stocked my iPod with some of the worship songs I do like to sing. And I sang. Not too loudly, but apparently loud enough for people in the hallway to hear me. I just knew that having praise on my lips just before going into surgery would calm me. Praising God in the middle of even the worst situation just brings peace and hope to my heart. I've only just discovered that, so I took full advantage of my new-found knowledge. And I totally have the patent on Hospital Karaoke© now. Don't go stealing it, yo.

Despite someone poking holes in me and taking out one of my internal organs (the thought of which is so weird, by the way), today was a great day. I knew I was loved by God and by my friends, I did things in faith that I typically wouldn't have done, and I felt the results of spending time in the Word and with God.

Has an awful day ever become a great day simply because of God's love and/or intervention or the love and prayers of those around you? I want you to tell me about it! E-mail me at thelazychristian (@) yahoo (dot) com, and I'll share some of your stories here! Be sure to send me your blog link (if you have one) and tell me how/if you want your name included.

I can't wait to hear your stories!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

C'mon, Prayer Warriors!

Today is the day! This gallbladder is coming OUT! It's kind of strange: I had back surgery, but they didn't take much out. I'm losing an entire organ this time. Weird. My son asked me if I was getting a new gallbladder, and I said no. And then he asked if I can still be alive without one. I assured him I could be. What a thoughtful kid! But what a weird conversation.

I would appreciate any prayers you're willing to send up for me today. My surgery is at noon (EDT). Prayers for the surgery as well as the recovery would be appreciated.

Thank you, Prayer Warriors! I'll try to send an update just to let you know I made it through.  :)


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Attack of the Gallbladder!

My body is at it again. No, it isn't back surgery. Again. It's not pancreatic antics. (I think it's hilarious that I have posts to go with all of these ailments.)

But, no. It's my gallbladder.

Apparently, pregnancy can wreak all sorts of havoc on your body, and your gallbladder can go all wonky because of it. Who knew? Not me. I didn't know until after it was a problem. I had a horrible gallbladder attack on Friday. Crazy pain, vomiting. Crying because of the crazy pain and vomiting. All because I went out for ice cream with my family. Blecch. An ultrasound revealed that my gallbladder was, "Just full o' stones!" as the tech put it. The only reliable treatment for gallstones is to have the gallbladder removed.

This is a pic from my back surgery in 2008. Kidding!
Surgery! *gasp*

What's funny is that I was so anxious about the back surgery I was scheduled to have in late 2010. I was awake-all-night-and-crying anxious. Head-for-the-hills-it's-Godzilla anxious. I've been thinking about the possibility of this surgery since my discussion with my doctor on Saturday morning.

And I'm not scared.

I'll still have to go under anesthesia. I'll still be having surgery. I'll have two kiddos to take care of when I come out of it (including one who's still nursing, so that'll be interesting). But I'm feeling OK about it.

I can't figure out why, though. Is it because I don't really have time to think about it? Most likely, it's going to be this week. Doesn't give me much time to fret and create awful scenarios in my head of what could happen. That back surgery was scheduled a month or so out. I had a month to get worked up about it.

But it wasn't really like that. I was scared from the get-go. I was uncomfortable with it from the start.

For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. 
- I Corinthians 14:33 (ESV)-

Yes, I'm taking that verse a little bit out of context. It's really about speaking in tongues, but I don't think it's any less true in a global sense. God doesn't cause anxiety. He tells us not to be anxious about anything. But he can prevent us from having peace if he knows something isn't the best decision for us.

We can follow his prompting or ignore it; we still have free will, of course. God may just enact a different game plan, since we know that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him" (Romans 8:28). We may have to take the long way around to get to the good, but it'll be there somewhere.

Personally, I'd rather listen a little harder in the first place and get to the good a little faster.

Have you ever had two similar situations in which you felt God had different directions for you? How did you know what to do? 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Running on Fumes

I've been a believer since I was a kid. I remember announcing to my third grade teacher that I had asked Jesus into my heart, so, generally, I say that's how long I've been a Christian. I wasn't baptized until my husband and I moved to Indianapolis seven years ago, though, so is that supposed to be the start date? I've never been clear as to what exact moment starts the clock, but I'm pretty sure the decision is the main thing.

So third grade it is. How long has it been? How old is a kid in third grade? It was in the spring, so I was probably nine years old. That means I've been a believer for—hmm, borrow from the three, subtract there—23 years.

Dude. I feel super old now. Not because I'm 32, but because I had to do long subtraction in my head. Do kids even do that anymore? This new math. Hmph.

So after 23 years of following Christ it took me until yesterday to realize a truth that I'm sure I've been living for a while now:

I'm coasting.

I'm running on fumes. I'm coasting. I'm Michael J. Fox on a skateboard behind a Jeep.

The most active part of my faith seems to be behind me somewhere, and I'm just doing the bare minimum to maintain my relationship with God. I'm trying to get by on what I've already done instead of trying to do anything new. I pray throughout the day, but study? Meditation?

Surely, you jest.

Granted, I have a lot going on right now. I'm still adjusting to having two kids and all that. But what was my excuse the year before that? And the years before that?

I'm not saying I've been a complete waste of space all this time. We all go through a period of growth followed by a plateau of sorts, then we go through another period of growth. Or sometimes we have a period of growth and then just ride the plateau. Indefinitely. Which is what it feels like I've been doing.

I'm not going to ditch God; he knows that. He's not going to ditch me; I know that. But should that ever be good enough? Should I ever settle for, "Well, as long as I don't become a worse person, do I really need to become a better person?"

Not according to Scripture. So here's the part where we see how much trouble I've gotten myself into:

Psalm 1 says that the person who meditates on the law day and night will be blessed and prosperous.

Hey, I want blessings and prosperity! That sounds good! What's next?

Colossians 1:9-10 encourages us to grow in "the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God."

Oh. I need to have spiritual wisdom and understanding. And I have to bear fruit (we all remember that poor fig tree, right?). And I have to keep increasing in knowledge. OK, this is sounding like work.

2 Peter 3:18 says I need to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

More knowledge. That comes from studying Scripture and actually spending quality time with God. Yep, definitely work. I probably don't even need to read that verse in Revelation about being lukewarm. I think I get the picture.

*sigh* So I apparently can't stay here and expect to ride this life out. I knew that, of course, but sometimes it's just so easy to rest on the laurels of the title "Christian." Like my pastor always says, you need to grow up in the faith, not just grow old in the faith.

So now I will attempt to refill my tank. Prayer. Study. Consistently, which is really the key. I have a game plan. Now I just need to put it into action.

Are you coasting? What do you do when you need to refill your spiritual tank?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

From the Safety of My Nest

I'm going to bite the bullet and write a post, since I've been writing this in my head for three months now. And I need to stop rewriting it in my head every night before I go to bed.

I haven't felt like writing a post. There are several reasons why, but the main reason is that I've lost the feeling that my blog is a safe place.

I've tried to make it a safe place for me and for my readers. A place where I can be myself and talk freely about what's in my brain. A place where people don't feel attacked or judged. A place where ideas are welcome and intelligent conversation is encouraged. I have Christians and non-Christians who read my blog, and I like that. I like you, dear reader. You who encourages me, you who challenges me, you who enlightens me.

The post I wrote on the day I went into labor with my daughter got some mean comments. Comments attacking me, mostly made from an anonymous source (but a few others as well). I know they were made from a place of misunderstanding, but they hurt. I'll be honest—I spent the first day of my daughter's life crying over those comments. I only logged on to see what encouragement my pals left, but that's not what I got. It took me by surprise, completely. I hid comments for the first time so I wouldn't have the reminder.

Many of my readers came to my rescue and shot back at A. Nonymous, but I took those comments off, as well. Two wrongs don't make a right, you know?

What strikes me is that, in the two or so years I've had this blog, I've gotten one out-and-out negative comment. One. And on a day of such joy, I suddenly get smothered by them. Ridiculous.

So here's what I'd like to say about that post: If you read the few posts before it, you'll see that I specifically felt that God was asking me to wait on his timing to have my daughter. I tried everything to get labor started myself because I was miserable, and I felt God telling me to stop that and wait for him to get things moving. He didn't want me to ask my doctor for an induction. I was trying to be obedient——mostly failing, but trying.

No, I do not think being induced is "against God." Me being induced before I was in labor was going against God's timing in my life. We all have to listen to God and what he's asking us to do, and he asked me to wait instead of asking my doctor to induce me. It's not a stance on induction; it was God's request of me, personally. Even though I started labor on my own, I still needed the assistance of the labor-inducing drug Pitocin to help me along. But I let God start the labor instead of trying to make it happen. That was the thing I was instructed to do, so I did it.

No, I don't think there's anything wrong with having an epidural. I'm not even sure how that came up in the comments, since I didn't mention it in my post. With both deliveries, I tried to avoid them. My reason being that I had back surgery when I was pregnant with my son, and I don't like people monkeying with my spine if it's unnecessary. But with both deliveries, an epidural ended up being the best choice for me.

Babies get here all kinds of ways. Sure, I have personal preferences on how I'd like my babies to get here (we all do, hence the idea of a birth plan), but that doesn't mean I'm taking a stance on how other babies get here.

I made a comment about choosing against God's wishes for me and then having that thought negatively attached to the birth of my baby girl. Well, that didn't happen. But now I have the thought of those mean comments negatively attached to the birth of my baby girl. So...awesome. I pray constantly that God will erase it from my emotional memory. This post is a step in that process.

You're probably thinking, "Toughen up, girl! If you want to have a blog and put this stuff out there for the world, you're going to have to deal with the occasional meanie!"

True. And I can handle people who don't like my ideas or disagree with me. But this one just hit me on such a sensitive day. It really struck a nerve, and I can't seem to shake it off.

Cuteness cures all.
I'm not certain what this means for me. Do I think I'll blog regularly again? Probably. In addition to this soreness, I'm still trying to balance having two kids in the house, finding time to recover from midnight feedings, and trying to take care of myself in between. That's not really conducive to blogging. I've also been dealing with postpartum depression (there, I said it out loud), which kind of exacerbates the issue at hand and probably makes me more sensitive than I would be otherwise. Maybe. There's no way of knowing. It's been a pretty good sting from the start.

So that's where I am. It's possible that you have thoughts—supportive or otherwise—on this post and would like me to know them, but I'm not really up to it. I just wanted to have some peace by clarifying things, which I've done, so I've disabled commenting on this post.

I'm grateful to my bloggy friends Heatherly, Patti, Carey, Shannon, and Teri for being supportive of me during this difficult spell. And I'm grateful to my other non-bloggy friends who have come alongside me, as well.

And hopefully I'll talk to you again soon.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Someone to Need You Too Much

Fear not: I still exist. Apparently, newborns want things like attention and food. And they take away things like like sleep and brain cells. The writing you'd get would be sub par at best, not to mention the typos I'd let sliip thrugh. I'd never hear the end of it from my other bloggy friends who know how picky I am about their grammar. Assuming I still have bloggy friends, since I can barely be called a blogger these days.

[Insert self-deprecating half-smile here.]

Our family is doing well, though. My son loves his little sister, and he's always very concerned when she fusses or cries. I'm still not quite myself yet, but I'm getting there. I'm still figuring out how to manage two kids on a daily basis, but I'm glad my husband and son are so very helpful. I'm blessed with a wonderful little family, and God is showing me that in new ways every day.

I shall return to you when I have something of import to say—and when my brain cells allow me to say it well. I don't miss writing right now, but I do miss my readers. Please let me know if there's some way I can be praying for you!

And, of course, I'll include a gratuitous picture for those of you who enjoy a cute baby. I may be a little biased, of course.

Sometimes I can get her hair to stay flat. Sometimes.

Monday, May 7, 2012

My Darling Girl

She arrived at 12:02 A.M. on Tuesday, April 24.




And the poor dear is bored with me already. :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mamas and Babies

I'm not sure how I feel about this post right now, but I needed to get it down while I still feel it strongly.

It's 3:30 a.m. My water just broke.

This long-awaited baby is finally going to make her appearance. Her birthday is going to be today. Well, most likely, anyway.

Because today is Monday, I'm supposed to have my weekly doctor's appointment. I won't be going because I'll hopefully be having a baby. But at that doctor's appointment, it was expected that I'd have to make a decision: Would I do something to move this baby along, or would I wait on God's timing like I said I would?

At 1:30 a.m., I woke up to use the bathroom (as pregnant girls often do in the night), and I started talking to God. I said, "Lord, I don't know what to do at this doctor's appointment. I don't want to do anything to choose against you. I promised I'd wait on your timing, but I'm not sure what the doctor will say. It would be so much easier if you could make this baby come tonight, all by herself, so that I don't have to be in the position of potentially choosing against you."

And an hour later, I woke up with—well, a mess, honestly.

I'm trying to reason this out. Here are my theories:

1. Maybe this baby was just supposed to show up today. That's clearly a good reason.

2. Maybe God didn't want me to have to choose against him. It was an, "OK, I appreciate you're trying to hold out, but you've proven your point" gesture. My doctor would have understood if I wanted to wait (despite breaking down into tears in her office last week), but God always understands better.

3. Maybe God knew I would choose against him when it came down to it. Maybe he wanted to preempt my choice because I'd choose the other. In my conversation/argument with God, I even thought, "If I have the doctor do something, I'm going to look at my baby girl and remember the time I chose against God. Big time." I don't want that attached to my baby girl. Would you? So maybe God prevented me from having to make that choice because he knew I would.

Whatever the reason is, you'd better believe that my husband and I got out of bed and prayed and praised God for this baby coming on her own.

I waited on God. Maybe not as long as he'd have liked me to, depending on the theory, but I did it.

And it was exhausting. And it was tiring. And I argued with him. And I complained to him. And I complained about him to him. 

It wasn't pretty. It wasn't exactly the joyful waiting I always pictured myself being able to do. Maybe next time I can do a little better. In fact, I'll be expected to. I'm sure of that. Practice may not make perfect in this situation, but it should make better.

In the meantime, please pray for our family. Pray for our patient, perfect little girl and her impatient, imperfect mama. We want to both stay healthy through this labor and delivery. Pray for my husband, who has been incredibly wonderful throughout this pregnancy. Really, he waited on me hand and foot (even on the days he didn't want to) and now he'll support me through this. Pray for my son, who will have to learn to be a big brother (even on the days he doesn't want to---hopefully he has my husband's genes for this).

And, if you think of it, throw God some extra praise on my behalf. He really came through for me, and I'm in awe of what an awesome, sovereign God we have.




P.S. - OK, this is funny. I just realized that today is April 23rd. It's Shakespeare's birthday. When I first found out my original due date of 4/29, I told everyone I was aiming for the 23rd so she'd share a birthday with Shakespeare. All this time I've been so impatient, and the baby was just aiming for the day I told her to. What a good girl! :) And what a silly mama. Maybe this supports theory #1!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Holy Spirit Smackdown!

I was hoping my next post would be one introducing you to my sweet little girl.

No such luck. She's making the most of her time in here, much to my dismay. But if you've ever wondered what it sounds like when God speaks to you, I've got a story for you.

In my last post, I talked about waiting on God. I decided that this baby would come in God's time and I'd stop trying to fiddle with things. I told God, "I'm waiting for you! You've got her birthdate picked out, so I'm just going to trust you and stop trying to do things myself!"

I did. For about a day. Every time I thought about going into labor, I said to myself, "I'm waiting on you, God." And then I immediately became impatient again. What made me feel even more impatient was the information that my baby is measuring 41 weeks and is likely to be over nine pounds. I'm only 38 weeks along, technically, which means my baby is growing at warp speed. I've known for a while now that I just cook 'em fast, and that's fine—as long as they arrive in a timely manner.

And she isn't.

So last night, I tried my last-ditch old wives' tale: getting a pedicure. There's this place on the inside of your ankle that will start labor if you rub it. So I went to the nail salon and said, "You know that place that starts labor? Rub the heck out of it!" And he did. And I had contractions through the night.

And yet. No baby.

I also ran into a friend of mine last night who suggested something my doctor could do to get labor going that she had done when she was pregnant. I mentioned it to my husband, and he said, "Call the doctor! See if she can do it today!"

...or a smackdown. Whatever you need to do.
Then I felt a nudge. It started out kind of soft, and then it felt more like an elbow to the ribs. And a voice spoke into my heart saying, "Didn't you say you were going to wait for me? And then you immediately turned around and started trying to do it yourself. I thought we were in this together."

Ouch. Convicted!

So when my husband called this morning and said, "Did you call the doctor?" I had to say, "Umm, I don't think I'm going to. I kinda told God I was going to wait for him, and then I tried to do it myself. Again. So I think I need to actually wait for God like I promised." My darling husband said, "Oh. Yeah. I get that. Then that's what you need to do."

I'm not going to lie; part of me is thinking, "Well, if I really do wait on him, he'll reward me by not making me wait long!" I'm trying to get rid of that nagging little thought, since I have no promise either way of how long this kid is going to take. And even if God decides the baby should arrive tonight, it's not necessarily a reward or punishment; it's probably what he had picked out all along.

So I'm waiting. On God. For reals this time. And I apologized to him for not waiting on him in the first place. Because that was rude. And kind of tricky.

What's your response when the Holy Spirit convicts you of something?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Waiting on God

All dressed up with no place to go. *sigh*
I hate waiting. Either I'm not good at it because I hate it, or I hate it because I'm not good at it. Tough to say.

But this baby girl is making me wait.

She's ready. She's fully grown and healthy. She was even grabbing her feet in her last ultrasound. She's doing stuff outside babies do, but she's doing it right here in my belly. And that's kind of uncomfortable, to tell you the truth. Most babies run out of room by now and move less. Not my little one! She just pushes my organs aside and makes the dance floor bigger.

Ow.

With my son, my water broke first. I wasn't thinking about it. I wasn't ready for it. He was two and a half weeks early. I wasn't uncomfortable. I wasn't ready to be done with that pregnancy. He could have baked a little longer and I'd have been fine with it.

This time, I am so ready to be done. I've been sick and/or in pain this entire pregnancy. I've dipped in and out of depression because I've felt so terrible. My poor son has gotten the worst of it, I think. A cranky mama plus three-year-old antics (especially potty training) does not bode well for the kid. And that makes me feel terrible for him and sends me a little further into depression.

Since I know she's full-term, I've been trying everything to get labor started. Every old wives' tale in the book is worth trying. Long walks. Spicy food. Pineapple. Eggplant parmigiana (although it apparently needs to be from Scalini's to work). Bouncing on an exercise ball. I've even been cleaning the house in the hopes that the physical exertion will start something! Cleaning the house. Me. Will wonders never cease?

I can't say all my efforts have been in vain. Three nights, I've had contractions. Three nights, they've stopped in the morning with no baby. Argh!

I've resigned myself to the fact that, no matter what I do to get labor started, my baby girl won't arrive until the time is right. For her, for God. Whatever the timing is, it's in God's hands. I know this verse is about waiting for Jesus' return, but I think it's an apt comparison:

See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. - James 5:7-8

A farmer can't control the rain, no matter how desperately his crops need it. He just has to be patient. I just need to be patient and wait for God's perfect timing to kick in. You'd think I'd get a vote, what with my being 75% of this baby-making machine and all. But, no. It's out of my hands—no matter how much I try to take it into my own hands.

Now, here's where you come in. To make me feel better, tell me about a time you had no choice but to wait on God, and tell me how much better it all turned out because you waited.

Really. I want to hear it. I need a pick-me-up, people!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Weed in the Weigela

A few years ago, we planted four weigela bushes near our back fence as a screen between our yard and our neighbor's yard. They're pretty bushes and have bright pink flowers in the late spring. They're great!

A weigela in bloom. 
The second summer we had the bushes, one of them started to take off all of a sudden. My husband and I were both amazed at the sudden growth. What could possibly be causing this? Maybe the maple tree next door shaded the other three too much—but, no, the one growing was in the middle, not on the end. Hmm. Was the soil mysteriously great there? Was it somehow getting more sunshine than the others? We were at a loss.

Being the curious person that I am, I decided to investigate. I climbed through my flower bed, past the day lilies and the black-eyed susans, to where my weigela bush was growing like crazy. I crouched down and looked at the base of the plant, only to discover...

*bum bum BUM*

...there was a weed growing right alongside my plant. No, no—not alongside my plant. Essentially growing as part of my plant. Its main stem was thisclose to my weigela's...trunk? Stem? What do you call the center branch of a shrub? I have no idea. Whatever it's called, this weed was right next to it. The weed's leaves looked almost identical to my weigela's leaves, and it was tough to tell the weed from the weigela without examining them both closely.

I felt sick. Really. It felt so gross to have this nasty weed growing as part of my lovely shrub. I felt horrible that this invader was making my garden nasty with its weediness. Blecch.

Does anyone else see the sin metaphor here? Sometimes we assume everything is hunky-dory in our spiritual lives, but there's this big, ugly weed growing right in the center of us that we can't even see. It requires someone getting thisclose to us to point it out sometimes. And we're not plants. That kind of proximity can make us uncomfortable. Can make me uncomfortable. But that sin is nasty and gross—it should make us feel yucky to know it's there. And, honestly, it feels more yucky when someone else sees it. Sometimes we can become too comfy with our sin. That weigela wasn't exactly fighting off that weed. Granted, that's not really what plants do, but shouldn't it be what we do?

Do you have someone looking at your life that closely? Someone spotting the sin for you and calling you out? And are you working at fighting off that sin? 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Remembering the Lasts

I've been counting the days until the end of this pregnancy. I've been sick, I've been in pain, I've been anxious, I've been afraid, I've been exhausted. Now I'm in the home stretch—less than four weeks to go until my daughter arrives.
My tiny human isn't so tiny anymore.

And it makes me sad.

You see, we don't plan on having any other children after this. So, unless God's got some surprises in store for us down the line, this is the last time I'll be pregnant. Granted, it's the last time I'll have morning sickness and the last time I'll have to go through labor and delivery. But it's also the last time I'll feel a baby move inside my belly. It's the last time I'll get to anticipate the arrival of one of my children. It's the last time I get to call my husband when he's out and say, "Please bring me home a milkshake! I'm playing the pregnancy card!" It's the last time I'll lug this ginormous belly around with me, feeling tubby and surprisingly adorable at the same time.

We often think about firsts—first steps, first words, first kiss, first baby. I hate thinking about lasts. Do you think about them? The last time you'll ever do something. How many lasts have I already passed? Sometimes we don't know a last is a last. Like the last time I saw my grandmothers. I had no idea they'd die before I got to see them again. What other lasts have I experienced without knowing it? Last time I'll visit a place, last time I'll see a loved one?

Boy. Since when is my blog this depressing? Let's lift this up a bit.

There are some other, better lasts I've experienced. My last blind date. My last day of high school. My last chili dog (trust me on that one). And there are things that are hopefully my last: last back surgery, last heartbreak. I'd like those to stick.

Faith has brought me a lot of good lasts, too. The last time I feared Hell. The last time I felt utterly alone in the world. The last time I felt helpless and hopeless. The last time I felt truly lost. The joy associated with those lasts is immeasurable—I'll keep them, thankyouverymuch.

So I guess not all lasts are depressing. And I may look back on this last and be grateful that it's the last time I'll be this uncomfortable. The last time I'll have to share my body with a future Rockette. The last time my organs will be accosted by a tiny human.

And I'll always remember the first time I see my daughter's lovely face.

Do you ever think about your lasts?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The List

When I married my husband, I was introduced to the idea of "Wish Lists." These are running lists of things we want as gifts. We add to The List whenever we think of something we want that we don't need to (or shouldn't) buy rightthissecond, and then when a birthday or holiday comes around, family members ask for The List. It works pretty well. We still get surprises, of course, but having The List ensures that you'll get at least one thing you really want on a gift-giving occasion. 

I love The List for several reasons. First, I hate surprises. It's a control issue. I'm totally fine with people buying exactly what's on my list and not going rogue. I think it's hilarious that some family members put "Surprises!" on their List. You'll never see that on my List. And I don't want to risk someone not liking the present I chose, so I'm one to buy straight from The List. Also, I can get my Christmas shopping done all in one day on Amazon.com if I have everyone's Lists. One. Day. It's totally awesome.

There are two kinds of things that go on The List: things we want and things we need. My husband's List is almost entirely things he needs: guitar strings, tools and equipment, socks, dress pants for work. I hate my husband's List. If I can find the one or two fun things on there—like a CD or grilling books/equipment—I claim those first. My List, on the other hand, is mostly things I want. I collect White House and Mount Vernon Christmas ornaments, so those are always on there. I love gift cards, too, although people don't seem to want to buy those as much as wrap-em-up gifts. The only need thing on there is a gift card to Sephora, which is where I buy my everyday makeup. But I love Sephora, so even that can still be considered a want gift.

Have you ever made The List for your faith? Things you want and things you need? The things we need are listed in the Bible for us. Fruits of the Spirit and whatnot show that we are, in fact, Christians, so those are a need. Having a good relationship with God is a need. Grace is a need. But what are the things you want in your faith?

Hmm.

I want passion. I want God to show me my next steps sooner rather than later. I want to love others without hesitation (but with conditions). I want to worry less and pray more. I want my faith to compel others to action. Heck, I want my faith to compel me to action.

Could I get by without these things? Yep. We all have, even intermittently. These aren't crucial to our experience of God or the forgiveness Jesus provides us. But without them, our faith can be disappointing to us. And maybe to God. He might look at me and say, "Boy, if Rachel just had these things, imagine how much more she could do!"

I'm not all about the greed. I'm really not. I don't like having a List of material "wants" a mile long. But maybe I need to be more greedy about my faith—making lists of what I want my faith to look like and then working with God to get those things. I can't imagine he'd be opposed to that. And if that's where our heart is, maybe he'll even throw in a few surprises—good ones, since, you know, he's God.

What would be on The List of wants for your faith?

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Seven Year Itch

I've lived in Indianapolis for almost seven years now. I've lived in the same house for seven years. I've gone to the same church for seven years.

I'm starting to get a little antsy.

I hate cute animal pictures. And yet.
I just realized that this is the longest I've stayed in one place. I mean, I lived in my parents' house for 18 years, but in that time I changed schools once (twice, if you count the transition between middle school and high school) and changed groups of friends at least three times. Even my best friend who lived on my street was only my best friend for maybe four or five years, and then she moved to another town. After high school, I went to college, and there was a lot of friend changeover there, too. I became an RA and had that rotating door of friends as people graduated or left the RA program. The last two years of college I had my college newspaper friends. After graduation, I lived in three different houses within two years, and most of my college friends fell away. The ones I still talked to, I didn't see much (and even if I still talk to high school or college friends, I never get to see them). I made some friends at the church I started attending after college, but the ministry I was a part of was comprised of single people, many of whom moved away for jobs or got married and left the group. My husband and I got married maybe two years later, and we moved to Indianapolis a few months after that. Then I had to make all new friends again, a process I still feel like I'm working on.

And it's kind of exhausting.

My life has been one of constant change, and now I'm suddenly settled down. Seven years is two years longer than my longest in-person best friendship. People are actually getting to know me. I'm getting to know other people. When people find out the junk in my life, I can't anticipate a move that will take me away from them shortly. I'm pretty much going to be here for the foreseeable future. Maybe not in the same house, but definitely at the same church, with the same community. I'm putting down roots, something I don't feel like I've had before. It's weirding me out. People are learning about my faults and my shortcomings, and they either learn to live with them or call me out on them. Either way, it makes me feel kind of uncomfortable. 

I'm not sure what to do. I'm not sure how to proceed from here. I'm honestly feeling some anxiety about this situation, and I'm tempted to cut ties and convince my husband to go to another church or something because I don't know what life is going to look like from here. Will I know the same people forever? Not that my friends aren't great, but I'm just not used to the idea of always having the same people around. I've always been jealous of people who have had the same BFF since middle school or high school. Such an intimate relationship! I tried looking up some Bible verses about friendship, but of course the first one that came up was Proverbs 20:6:

Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable?

Not. Helpful.

Have you been in a similar situation? Finally putting down roots and kind of overwhelmed by it? What did you do? 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Are You There God? It's Me, Rachel.

So I'm starting this new Bible study called Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer. So far, I love Ms. Priscilla. She's a great speaker; I love listening to her teach. She's very insightful.

It's an interesting topic, hearing God speak. A good point Priscilla brought up is that some people don't expect God to speak, so they never think to listen for him. Even if God is yelling at you, you won't realize it's him unless you're trying to listen for him.

So true.

Can you hear me now?
I've heard God. Sometimes it's been loud and clear, sometimes it's been faint. There are times I've written in my prayer journal and heard him so clearly that I can write the conversation out like a dialogue. They weren't always times I was expecting an immediate answer, either. And sometimes it's not so much an answer as an explanation. I prefer explanations sometimes. I think God knows that about me.

Tonight I had one of those prayers where I really just wanted to talk at God. I wasn't in the mood to listen, and I told him as much. I just wanted to spill my guts and share my fears and anxiety with him. Heck, I don't want them. He can have them. I wanted the conversation to be purely one-sided. Also, I was driving, so it's much easier to talk than to listen when I'm trying to pay attention to the road.

This is why I don't talk on my cell phone while driving. Ever. But I digress.

There are times I expect God to speak and he doesn't. There are times I don't expect him to and he does. And there are times I don't want him to speak, so I probably wouldn't be able to hear him even if he tried. It's amazing how much of our interaction with God depends on our attitude toward him.

So I'd like you to answer the following questions for me:

  1. Do you expect God to speak to you? When? How?
  2. Has God spoken to you in any capacity?
  3. How did you know it was God?

You can leave a comment here, or you can e-mail me at TheLazyChristian at yahoo dot com. I'm just really interested in your experiences interacting with God!



Monday, March 19, 2012

Giveaway Winner!

After much scrutiny from my impartial third party judge, the winner of the What Would Jesus Google contest is:

"Boat Rental"

Runner-up (based on MY favorite pick) is:

"What's in the suitcase in Pulp Fiction?"

Too funny! I wish I could reward you both, but this is a low-budget operation, yo. Shannon, I'll be e-mailing you a $10 Amazon gift card!

Thanks to everyone for your clever entries!