Thursday, August 26, 2010

Conflicted in Conflict

I have to admit: In my life, I haven’t given much thought to the idea of Satan. I guess I always chalked him up to the equivalent of the Boogie Man, and I don’t give him much thought either.

But these days, I’m reevaluating the presence of the devil. Satan. The adversary, as some call him. (Cue the scary music.) I think he’s trying to wiggle his way into my heart.

I’m having issues with a Former Friend. We used to be close many many years ago, but something happened and that period of our lives ended. Now there are new issues cropping up. I won’t share the details because it’s a private matter and no one needs to air dirty laundry on a blog. Forgive me for being so cryptic. I’m sure you’re thinking, “If she’s not going to share the details, why even bring it up?” I’m bringing it up because it has me so conflicted inside.

Part of me wants to react to the situation with anger and seek retribution. Aha, that’s where the “devil is dancing,” as a woman from my small group put it. Oh, how I want to give this Former Friend a verbal dress down!

But for one of the first times in my life, I’m choosing a different path. I’m taking an active stance to follow Jesus and let Him show me how to handle this conflict. Jesus is whispering in my heart. He tells me, “Elizabeth, I’ve called you to a life that’s better than anger and retribution.” Then He reminds me that His love covers everyone. Everyone. Even me. And even her.

And as much as I want to take the low road on this one, as much as my human sinfulness wants to spew hurt back on the hurters, I know this time I have the choice to show the world (or at least my Former Friend) who holds my heart now. I am making the conscious effort to override the unconscious response of anger. And, dude! It is really really hard!

Retribution and anger can consume me. Thankfully, I’ve got a firewall that promises to protect me. At the end of the day, I want You to be proud of me, Jesus. I want You to shine through me. Amen!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Katie’s Charm Bracelet

When I was a little girl, one of the things I loved to do was go through Mom’s jewelry box and look at all her treasures. I always loved the silver charm bracelet she had hidden away. I never saw her wear it, and I don’t know much about where it came from or when it was purchased.

When I got older, I started collecting charms for my own charm bracelet. Mom bought me some, I bought myself some, and others were given as gifts from friends or Dan. When Mom died, I inherited her charm bracelet as well as some other jewelry. There were some pieces – including the charm bracelet – that I don’t know anything about. Since I feel that jewelry is a personal statement, I decided I didn’t want stories of my own jewelry to die with me. I decided to photograph each piece, then I made a scrapbook and described the jewelry in my own handwriting. I even included a photo of my original engagement ring (the one I lost!) and the story of how I lost it. I’m glad I documented my jewelry, and one day I hope it’s something my kids will appreciate owning.

When Katie turned one, I started a charm bracelet for her. I decided to buy her a charm each year for her birthday. She hasn’t even seen it yet. I know she’s not ready to wear a piece of" “real” jewelry, but I’ll keep collecting charms until I feel the time is right to give it to her.IMGP8508

There are seven charms on the bracelet. The first is the year “2004”, which signifies her first birthday and her first charm.

The second charm is a butterfly. The day before Mom died, she told Mary and I, “I know I’m not a butterfly, but I feel like I’m in a cocoon.” Mary and I started collecting butterflies as a way to remember Mom. I chose a butterfly for Katie’s second birthday because it reflected the loss of her grandmother (and grandfather) that year.

The third charm is a pickup truck. For Katie’s third birthday, we had a Dodge Ram party. She *loved* Dodge Rams at the time, so her party was all about trucks. The cupcakes had real Matchbox trucks on them, the kids made foam trucks/cars at the party, and we borrowed my friend Catrina’s Dodge Ram so the kids could take a ride in it up and down the street. It was only fitting that the charm that year was a truck!

The fourth charm is a black bead. It is a bead made by a woman named Lisa at Roses2Remember. She uses roses from special events (weddings, funerals, etc.) and makes jewelry from them. For Valentine’s Day 2007, Dan gave Katie her first bouquet of roses. I saved them and sent one to Lisa. She made a bead for Katie’s charm bracelet, so Katie will always have a reminder of how much her dad loved her before she even realized it! (Lisa has also made jewelry out of roses from Dad’s funeral and Grandmother’s funeral. I highly recommend asking her to help commemorate something special for you too.)

The fifth charm is a school bus. It signifies Katie’s entry into Kindergarten that year. The sixth charm is a ruler, which also commemorates school. This is a bit confusing. Katie’s birthday is in June, and school starts in July. So when she turned five, I gave her the bus charm because she would be going to school in a matter of weeks. (She also just had her first ride in a school bus for our district’s Saturday School preparation for Kindergarten.) Then for her sixth birthday, I wanted to commemorate the year that had just passed – her first year of school – so I did the ruler. I know, it wasn’t very original. But it is what it is!

The seventh and last charm is a gymnast. The year between Katie’s sixth and seventh birthdays was the first year she took gymnastics lessons. She went from barely doing a somersault to being able to do cartwheels and handstands by herself. I was so proud of her and wanted to mark the growth and confidence she gained through gymnastics.

I have a while until Katie’s next birthday, but I’m already thinking of the ways she’ll grow this coming year, and how we’ll be able to mark the growth next June!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dancing in the Rain

See my blog header? The one with the word “FAMILY” superimposed over my family’s faces? Have any of you stopped to read the quote below that? The one that says: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

Didja get that? If not, go read it again.

There are storms, people. Big ones. My skies aren’t very dark right now, but I have close friends who have some enormous thunder clouds raining down on them. The ones who have new babies and keep asking, “Why?” The ones who have cancer and also ask, “Why?” The friends who have lost loved ones and feel so alone. Or those friends whose marriages are cold and unraveling.

Sometimes, I don’t know what to say to them. I’ve weathered storms, but my storms left their own special brand of devastation on my life. My friends are going through their own storms, and I don’t have a lot to say to them. But, then again, maybe they don’t want me to say anything to them.

But, oh! I hope they know I’m dancing with them. That they’re not alone. That my heart aches too. I hope that my presence beside them is a dance unto itself, even if the soundtrack is one of silence and anguish. The dancing? It might not be much more than surviving another day. Or holding that baby. Or maybe the dance is simply shedding tears.

There can be beauty in the storm, beauty in the dancing. Let me rephrase that – maybe not a beautiful storm, but beauty in surviving it.

Known and Loved

We saw a video at church this weekend which left a deep impression on me. My friend Tony preached a message about sharing your story – The Story. You know, the one about Jesus? The greatest Story ever told? That Story wasn’t meant to end with you or with me. It’s a Story that’s meant to be shared and passed from person to person, friend to friend, parent to child, generation to generation. Tony asked the question: where are you with The Story? Are you still sitting on the sidelines, listening to someone else narrate it? Or are you actually IN The Story?

Tony made the point that sometimes, you don’t even have to use words to tell The Story. St. Francis said it best: “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” Dear Lord, help me to be a better preacher!

"So take me as you find me, all my fears and failures. Fill my life again. I give my life to follow everything I believe in. Now I surrender." (Mighty to Save by Hillsong)

Here’s the video that stuck with me, and the transcript of it is below.

I am a woman. Of no distinction. Of little importance. I am a woman of no reputation, save that which is bad. You whisper as I pass by and cast judgmental glances though you don’t really take the time to look at me, or, even get to know me, for to be known is to be loved, and to be loved is to be known and, otherwise, what’s the point of doing either one of them in the first place? I want to be known. I want someone to look at my face and not just see two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and two ears but to see all that I am and could be. All my hopes, loves, and fears but that’s too much to hope for, to wish for, or pray for so I don’t. Not anymore. Now I keep to myself, and by that I mean the pain that keeps me in my own private jail. The pain that has brought me here, at midday, to this well.

To ask for a drink is no big request, but to ask it of me, a woman unclean, ashamed, used and abused, an outcast, a failure, a disappointment, a sinner. No drink passing from these hands to your lips could ever be refreshing, only condemning, as I’m sure you condemn me now, but you don’t.

You’re a man of no distinction, though of the utmost importance. A man with little reputation, at least so far. You whisper and tell me to my face what all those glances have been about, and you take the time to really look at me but don’t need to get to know me for to be known is to be loved, and to be loved is to be known, and you know me. You actually know me. All of me and everything about me. Every thought inside and hair on top of my head. Every hurt stored up, every hope, every dread from my past and my future, all I am and can be you tell me everything. You tell me about me.

And that which is spoken by another would bring hate and condemnation. Coming from you it brings love, grace, mercy, hope, and salvation. I’ve heard of one to come who would save a wretch like me, and here in my presence you say, “I am he.”

To be known is to be loved, and to be loved is to be known.

And I just met you, but I love you. I don’t know you, but I want to get to. Let me run back to town; this is way too much for just me. There are others–brothers, sisters, lovers, haters, the good and the bad, sinners and saints who should hear what you have told me, who should see what you have shown me, who should taste what you gave me, who should feel how you forgave me.

For to be known is to be loved, and to be loved is to be known.

And they all need this too. We all do. We need it for our own.

Thanks to MandiKaye at Free to Be Me for transcribing the text to this video.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Funk Busters

I’ve been in a funk lately, and kind of for silly reasons. But I know that I can’t push those reasons away, so I wallowed in them for a few days. I did some soul-searching and questioning God about certain aspects of it. This carried on for a week, then I finally decided I needed to force myself out of the slump.

I started a list of things that really inspire me and make me feel alive, and decided to tackle a few of them in an effort to swing my funky pendulum back to feel-good.

Here’s the list of my personal Funk Busters:

1. Read a great book. Two days ago, I picked up my copy of The Shack and started reading again. This book changed my view of Jesus (and God and the Holy Spirit) from impersonal to one of companionship. In my funk, I need that reminder, so I chose this book to help me find that place again.

2. Get behind the lens of my camera and take some photos. Using my camera awakens my heart in ways that are indescribable to me. Looking through the lens helps me to figuratively and literally focus my brain and get into the Flow.

3. Help someone else. This is a no brainer, right? At least I hope you think so too! When I’m down, helping someone else makes me feel less alone. Even if it’s just paying for the person behind me in the drive through line, it still makes me feel connected to the world in a bigger way.

4. Go swimming at the gym. The rhythm of my arms pulling while my legs kick and my mouth breathes in while my nose breathes out helps clear the clutter from my mind. At the end of my swim workout, I always hook my legs on the side of the pool and let my body float in the water so the only thing poking out is my face (for breathing). I close my eyes and focus on the sound of air rushing into and out of my lungs, and I find my center again.

5. Craft something. On Tuesday, I got my stamps out and set about making covers for my fabric scrapbooks. I recently decided to stop scrapbooking. I feel like these fabric scrapbooks I’ve been making will suffice for my family and my lifestyle. I gathered them all in one spot and hung them on the wall, but they needed some extra oomph. I crafted some covers and love the end results. It’s amazing what a good craft project does for my outlook on life!IMGP0678

So, what do YOU do when you’re in a funk? How do you bust yourself out of the blues?

Playing Catch Up

Here are some things we’ve done or made or visited or played with lately.

My kids are getting in to Legos, but I only allow Lego play time while I’m showering in the mornings. It keeps the kids occupied so I can shower in peace, and keeps the tiny little pieces contained.IMGP9925

I’ve rediscovered Shrinky Dinks. I made a Wonder Woman bracelet to wear on those days when I feel less-than-wonderful.IMGP0012

I also used Shrinky Dinks to make some photo jewelry of my kids, a keychain, and a durable tag for Katie’s doll. The tag includes our phone number in case Katie is ever separated from Alexis.IMGP0008

I got a new [used] Bible, that I am thoroughly enjoying. It is an illustrated version by calligraphist Timothy R. Botts. Trust me, I paid the used price for it – not new! It is pretty big and heavy, so I made a special space at the top of my stairs where I have started spending the first 10 minutes of every day. I open the Bible, flip the pages until I find an illustration that captures my eye, then I sort of meditate over it for a few minutes. It has really helped me start my days with more intention and it has grounded me before the morning rush begins. I know ten minutes isn’t long, but it’s WAY more than I’m used to spending in dedicated time with my Bible. In the past, I’ve spent my quiet time in journaling and reading devotions. This new Bible has inspired me to dig deeper into God’s message.IMGP0014

My friend Susan brought her kids for a visit a few weekends ago. I am lucky to have friends like her who knew me years ago and – surprisingly sometimes! – still want to be my friend.IMGP0069-

Color Me Katie gave me a great idea for snack time: marshmallow faces!IMGP0147

I found some test tube holders at Leftovers and I’m using them for vases.IMGP0407

Silly Bandz. Both of my kids love ‘em.IMGP0408

My friend Cindy found this scrappy little dude on her tire yesterday, in front of my house. I took this photo just before he pounced at my lens.IMGP0647-

80 pounds of pork butt are sitting beside me in the kitchen at this very moment, rubbed with special spices and waiting to be smoked tonight on our Steeley Pit. Dan is helping feed 400+ people at church tomorrow, so we’ll be sitting on our driveway in the heat tonight, having some adult beverages and waiting for the meat to cook. The spices are wafting through my house right now, and it’s almost overwhelming!IMGP0672

I finally decided to let myself off the hook and postpone my plans to do a full marathon in October. I am going to do the half instead, because training for the full was going to require a lot more time than I am able to give. I think I’ll get around to the full one day, when my kids are a little older and I can leave them for longer chunks of time. I agonized over the decision a bit, but once I decided on just the half, I felt a lot of relief and peace over the decision.

After almost two years of fighting it, I agreed to let my doctor put me on some new medication for my Raynaud’s Syndrome. Side effects from the meds on the first two days freaked me out (an aggressive headache and some dizziness), but I stabilized and the R.S. hasn’t affected me as badly anymore. I can go to the gym and actually have circulation in my toes AND hands when I run on the treadmill! I still have a little neuropathy in some toes, but I am thrilled with the improvement.

The Christian radio station in town is broadcasting on a new frequency and the quality is so much better that I am listening almost nonstop. I am hearing lots of new music, and my iTunes wish list is bursting at the seams now with 40 songs I want to download.

I’m starting to percolate some ideas for Christmas this year. I’m taking part in the Advent Conspiracy again. Are you? If you have any great ideas that fit the four themes of A/C, let me know: Spend Less. Give More. Worship Fully. Love All.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Witness to a Miracle

One of my best friends, Beth, found out she was pregnant at the end of February. The story gets better: she found out she was having twins! The babies were due at Halloween, but Beth knew they would probably come earlier than that. Her two older boys came a little early, so she figured the twins would too.

Oh, was she ever right!

Beth has been limiting her activities since an amniocentesis in May. Last Monday, Beth’s water broke. She was 28 weeks pregnant. I know from past experiences with other friends that in utero babies are viable at 26 weeks. That doesn’t guarantee no complications, but it means that 26 weeks is a huge milestone.

Beth was rushed to the hospital, and doctors stopped her contractions. She and her family made plans for her to stay in the hospital for an extended time. Her mom and sisters would watch her older boys when her firefighter husband was at work pulling 48 hour shifts. Beth settled in for the long haul, but it lasted less than five days.

Early Friday morning, I got a call as I was preparing breakfast for my kids. Beth asked if I received a text that was sent to me. I said no and asked why. She told me she had the babies at 3:30 that morning. They just wouldn’t wait any longer! My heart leapt into my throat as I was afraid to ask how the twins were. She said they were doing very well and told me their stats. Owen was born first, weighing 1 pound 13 ounces. Finn was born second, weighing 3 pounds 7 ounces.

Later that afternoon, I got a babysitter for Jackson and went to the hospital to see Beth and her new sons.

This is Owen:Owen

And this is Finn:Finn

Do you have any idea what it’s like to look on a tiny baby like these, and know – without a doubt – that God’s love is infinite and complete? It is breathtaking. Stunning. Magical. There is no way that you can see these babies in person and then profess that God does not exist.

I have witnessed two miracles. Their names are Finn and Owen.


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