Monday, February 27, 2012

waiting...

this weekend, i had a bit of a meltdown. yes, there were tears. no, nothing major happened. i just let the stress of everything that isn't happening overwhelm me.

ever had one of those moments?

there really isn't anything major and life changing happening in my life right now. on the flip side of that, though, there are a lot of major, life changing things not happening right now.

for somebody like me, that's worse.

if something happens, no matter how bad, there's something for me to do, something i have to deal with. when the issue is things that aren't happening, there's nothing i can do except wait.

i'm not very good at waiting.
i really don't like doing it.

so, while i struggle with waiting, i've found a verse to cling to. maybe it's one you can claim, too.

"i wait on the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word i put my hope."
~psalm 130:5 

Friday, February 24, 2012

not good enough

inadequate. not good enough. doesn't measure up.

i used to compare myself to other people a lot. i would look at other girls and think they were prettier
or smarter
or better at gymnastics
or more organized
or more fashionable
or...
you get the point.

i was an insecure teenage girl (or a typical teenage girl, whichever way you want to look at it).

eventually, i grew up.
i would love to say that i never notice that stuff anymore (well, the gymnastics thing definitely isn't an issue anymore), but i do--sometimes. for the most part, though, those things don't bother me very much.

instead, i've replaced comparing myself to others so much with comparing myself to myself.
or, to be more accurate, an idealized version of me.

i've created this version of myself in my head that is the "perfect" me.

she doesn't loose her temper with her kids
she doesn't nag her husband
she gets through to every student that comes through her classroom
she writes books (that grace the shelves of people worldwide)
she doesn't let the laundry pile up to the ceiling
she exercises and eats right
she remembers her physics and calculus
she is confident

she sounds pretty good, right?
well, she isn't me.

in comparison,
i snapped at my daughter for not getting ready for school this morning
i told my husband, yet again, how he never looks for anything
i have students who look at me like they are lost, no matter what i say
i get cut in the first round of a writing contest
i don't let the laundry pile to the ceiling--its swarming across the floor instead
i sit on the couch and dunk cookies in milk
i would probably stare blankly at even an intro to physics test
i like to blend in to the crowd

despite all of that, even when i don't measure up to my idealized self, God can still use me.

for Him, it's okay that i'm inadequate.
from what i've read, He i would venture to say that He even prefers me that way:
2 corinthians 12:9 (from the message)
"My grace is enough; it's all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness."

God doesn't want me to see myself as enough (i'm not saying here that He wants me always putting myself down for not being perfect, though) because it is when i see that i'm not good enough that i begin to truly see that 
He is enough.  

 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

struggling with not knowing

what in the world do i want to do with my life?
that's a question i thought had been answered already, but now i don't know.
so far, nothing has worked out the way i thought it would.

i know God is in control of my life, that He has everything mapped out and knows exactly what i'm going to do. 
i know He has plans for me that i could never imagine.
i know that i'm not in control (gasp!), nor do i need to be.

the thing is, i really wish He would give me a glimpse of the road ahead!

this is a constant struggle for me, and it's getting really hard again right now, this not knowing. 
i've had opportunities come along that i've been certain were God's doing. it isn't that i don't think that now--i still do--it's just that i wish i could see the purpose behind them. obviously, it wasn't what i thought it was at the time.


everything is kind of starting to pile up right now. there are big decisions that have to be made soon, decisions that will impact many people and that will affect my family's life both short term and for years down the road.


the problem is, not all the information is in yet.


i have this crazy trait: i don't like making decisions, especially life-changing decisions, when i don't have all the data available to me. 
i like to be able to pour over all the possibilities, weigh the pros and cons.


i guess it all comes back to that whole "faithful" thing.
if i'm going to step out of the boat, it isn't going to do me any good to analyze all the data anyways. if i did, i would just come to the conclusion that walking on water is so improbable as to be impossible (sorry--the quantum mechanics stuff is coming out...technically it would have to be possible...i know, you don't want physics!).


maybe that's the case with whatever is coming in my future. God knows me, so He knows how i would most likely (<--ha! who am i kidding?) over analyze the data and come to my own conclusion that what He has planned for my future is impossible.


so, i'm going to choose to accept the things i've been through--
the joys
the heartbreaks
the blessings
the disappointments--
and see them as preparation for the things to come.


whatever they may be.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

who i am

authenticity.

that's my goal with this blog, because i feel like without being authentic i'm not being faithful to what God has told me to do. so, i'm going to just be me when i write and not worry about anything else.

the problem is, to be authentic you have to know who you are.

there are many different ways to describe me, and i imagine that if i asked everyone i know who they think i am, you would get a bunch of different answers.
i'm a...
wife
mommy
list maker
daughter
sister
friend
dreamer
teacher
physicist (eek! it still doesn't feel quite right to say that...)
writer
listener
farmer's daughter
preacher's kid
procrastinator.

i'm also...
impatient
disorganized
messy
emotional
intelligent
insecure
forgetful.

i'm sure those lists could go on and on, and i'm sure those who know me would come up with other titles or words to describe me.

but who am i?
it's all well and good to know how the world describes me, maybe better to know what i think of myself, but the only thing that really matters?
how God describes me. 

to Him, i am...
His masterpiece 
"for we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." 
(ephesians 2:10, NLT)
His child 
"yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God–"  
(john 1:12, NIV)
justified 
"...justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus"(romans 3:24, NKJV)
a new creation 
"therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"  
(2 corinthians 5:17, NIV)
redeemed 
"blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ"  
(ephesians 1:3, NASB)
chosen, holy, and beloved 
"so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience"
(colossians 3:12, NASB). 
 
 i struggle with knowing who i am, with trying to figure out my identity. i always thought, growing up, that i would have no doubts about what i wanted to be when i grew up (why, i don't know. i am definitely my father's daughter in this...), especially by now.
it's frustrating at times to realize that i have no clue.

despite what i may think or what i may struggle with,
it's pretty amazing to be reminded of who God says i am!
 


Thursday, February 16, 2012

love is mostly...

check out 1 john 4:7-11

all the examples (here and here) i've given of love being shown in my life have come from one thing--
God loves me.

isn't that an amazing thing?
the God of the Universe loves me.

i am a sinner, saved by grace.
God pours out His love, totally undeserved on my part.
it doesn't matter what i've done or what i haven't done.
He doesn't care that i've messed up.
He loves me anyways,
enough to choose me,
to adopt me,
to save me.
 
His love is a gift, sent to us in the form of
a baby who grew up to be crucified.
as a gift, it has been freely given.
i can't do anything good enough to earn it, and i can't do anything bad enough that He's going to take it back.
 
and guess what?
i was created to love Him.

you know what's an even more awesome thing to me?
God is love.
so, you know that description of love paul gave us in 1 corinthians 13?
that description we always point out to other people--after all, they are always the ones who need to work on it, right?--and that we always hear at weddings?
--that is a description of God.

so, i'm going to take a few liberties with part of those verses and show them in a little different light than usual (at least for me).

"God always protects
always trusts
always hopes
always perseveres.
God never fails."
(verses 7 & 8a)

 God is love, and He wants us to know Him.
He loves us.
He wants us. 
always.

isn't that pretty amazing?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

love is also...

(part 2 of the valentine's week posts on love)

for valentine's day, it seems like there's one group that tends to get ignored--family.
so today i want to embarrass some people (probably) and talk about the amazing blessings i have in that department.
 
 first, you have these two:

my babies have shown me so much about love that i never knew before.
like how amazing and terrifying it is to have a little bundle placed in your arms and know--without a doubt--that you would give your last breath for that little person you don't even know, not really

or how incredible it is to hear "i wuv you," unprompted, for the first time

or how flattering and frustrating it is to be the only one your little boy wants, especially when you have a pile of papers to grade and a house that needs to be cleaned and a million other things to do--
and a little boy who wants you

or how you can be scared to death and thrilled at the same time when you see how independent your little girl is becoming--
and she's only 5 (yikes)!

as my little ones are so quickly growing up on me, it gives me a whole new understanding of and appreciation for my parents. 
these two:
 i was blessed with amazing parents who are two of my best examples of striving to be like Christ. 
they are also a wonderful example of what it should look like to be married. after more than 30 years of marriage, they still walk around like in the picture.
they still kiss in the kitchen (in front of their kids even!).
and yet, they don't try to pretend like there aren't little things they are bugged by (like pop leaving cabinet doors open or momma helping work cows) about the other one. for a really neat post about just that, look here.

they have seen me through so much, from those weepy teenage years (yes, i was that girl, the one who wore her heart on her sleeve and cried about everything) to real-live adult struggles. and they loved me through all of it.

i know they would give me everything they have if it meant it would make things better for me.
at the same time, though, they taught me the meaning and value of hard work.
 (another picture by my sister!)
they taught me that you get out what you put in, so you should always put in your best.

i know, without a doubt, that i can go to them for anything.

that leads me to the next ones: 
 


my big brother

  
 my baby sister. she's getting married this summer--but she's still supposed to be the 5 year old little girl with the wrinkly nose following me around.

i have crazy memories with both of these two, everything from giggling for hours over nothing at all to "hill jumping" and jumping off the roof of the house onto a trampoline.

i also have some not so great memories with both, hurtful things done by one or more of the three of us.

these two are the two God put on this earth to share all those crazy times and all the bad times with. they are the two He knew i would be closest to, the two who would always support me and who i would support through everything, no matter what.

He also knew there would only be two of us today, and that this year will mark the year my baby sister turns the same age as her big brother.

and that i would be swallowing tears as i write this, almost 8 years after we lost the oldest of our trio in najaf, iraq. in an indestructible tank, no less.

love is a funny thing.
it is what gets you through unimaginable sorrow
yet brings back tears years later.

the last thing for today's post (i know, this just keeps growing!) is 
family.
yes, i know that's what i've been talking about this whole time. what i mean, though, is what everybody calls their "extended family."

i don't, though. i claim them closer than that ;0)
i wish i had a picture to put here to show the whole group...

i have been blessed with a family that gets along!
it's hard to believe, in a world full of feuds and fights, that i have a family that loves each other.

it seems like there are always stories of people not knowing this aunt or that uncle because so-and-so stopped talking to whoever years ago.

my parents don't have flawless relationships with their siblings.
they are all human.
they do, however, all love each other and all support each other.

maybe even stranger than that (i don't know--this has always been my family, so i don't know what would be "the norm")?
i know i could go to any of them, for anything.

love and family.
what amazing things!

so this is my valentine to my family. love you all... 
 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

love is...

in my life, i have been blessed more times than i can even start to count.

i have people in my life who love me way more than i would ever deserve, so for this week when everybody's mind is wrapped up in valentine's day i'm going to share a little bit of how i have been blessed.

first, since today is valentine's day, is my husband.
this guy :0)

we probably met in kindergarten, but we started dating right after high school graduation. we got married at the ripe ol' age of 19 (just babies, i know!) and have been married for 8 years, 1 month, and 11 days (hey, it's valentine's day--i'm supposed to be a little sappy...)

he's the only guy i've ever said, "i love you" to.

we've been through a lot in 8 years. he's been right beside me when my world has been turned upside down multiple times. he's seen me at my best and at my worst, and he loves me anyways.

when we were engaged, planning a may wedding, we found out over Thanksgiving that my brother would be shipping out for iraq at the beginning of january. he didn't have a heart attack when i suggested we get married in a month and a half instead of the 6 months it was supposed to be...although i do wish i had had a camera with me to catch the look that came across his face!

when i was home with two little ones and was lucky to find time to shower once a week (i know that nobody else has ever had that experience...), he would still tell me i was beautiful--
      and mean it.

when i was ready to settle in college with a major i thought was good enough, he was the one pushing me to do something more. since physics was the result of that, there were times when he got blamed for it rather than thanked, but we made it through!

he has put his dreams on hold so that i can chase mine.

he puts up with my crazy and deals with everything i throw at him.

he hasn't disowned me for making this blog where i air all my/our dirty laundry :0)

he knows that i am a lousy housekeeper and doesn't say a word about it.

he's there for me
no matter what
even when i try to push him away.

he loves me, and that's a pretty amazing thing!
 
"i am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine." ~song of solomon 6:3 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

what is love?

"love never gives up. 
love cares more for others than for self. 
love doesn't want what it doesn't have. 
love doesn't strut, 
doesn't have a swelled head, 
doesn't force itself on others, 

isn't always 'me first,' 
doesn't fly off the handle, 
doesn't keep score of the sins of others, 
doesn't revel when others grovel, 
takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, 
puts up with anything, 
trusts God always, 
always looks for the best, 
never looks back, 
but keeps going to the end. 
love never dies." (1 Corinthians 13:3-8a, The Message)

there you go--i just answered the ultimate question, right? well, besides "what is the meaning of life?" but i guess i can tackle that one next week...

ha! if only it were that simple.

at the same time, though, it is simple. 
simply stated, anyways.


the problem is,
simple to understand doesn't mean the same thing as easy to do.

when paul gave us God's definition of love, he was pretty straightforward about it. not only did he tell us what love is, he told us (mostly, actually) what love isn't.

for valentine's week, i'm planning on a series of posts to talk about some examples of love that i have been blessed to experience in my life. though they are all huge examples of love in my life, they are not all happy and pretty. looking back at the definition of love paul gave us, i'm really at a bit of a loss to know why "happy and pretty" has become much more the expected picture of love. to me these examples are, though, powerful,

in the meantime, though, i'll leave you with a picture of two of the loves in my life, my babies :0)
 (once again, these pictures are by my sister. isn't she good? :0) )

Thursday, February 9, 2012

screaming sirens (or angry women...)

so, it's time to write a post i really didn't want to put out here.

i read this post this morning by Ann Voskamp. i started writing right after i read it, but what i was writing was my prayer. (as an aside, writing my prayers is something i used to do all the time during those crazy teenage years. i've recently come back to it after reading "the help," a great book i got from my sister for Christmas. thanks, sarah beth!)

since it was my prayer, i had no intention of anybody else reading it. it was to be safely tucked away in my 3-ring binder, there for only me and God to read.

the problem is, that wasn't His idea.
that's actually how my first post started out, too. well, it was written in an online journal called penzu instead of on paper, but it was still the same idea--nobody but me and God would ever know it existed.

ha!
funny how my plans so seldom seem to mesh with His...

so, all the delays put aside now, Ann wrote a post about anger and fighting in marriage. she opened her heart and told of a fight when she raged and her husband turned away, quiet. she talked about the angry words she kept spewing out, words about how she hated it when he did certain things, reacted certain ways. the final straw was telling him she hated him.

ouch.

how many times have i done that? how many times have i raged, my words flying and my temper escalating, while my groom stood by, silent? i can't remember every saying "i hate you," but may of my words were just as ugly and hurtful.

her next words, though, are what made me think. there she was, yelling, but what she wanted was for him to put his arms around her, to show that he cared and wasn't going to leave. what he did, though, was turn away.

she pointed out that what stayed unspoken between them, on her side, were the fears: do you really care about me? do you love me enough to stick it out through all this craziness? are you going to stay with me?

those fears are the fuel for the fire that is my anger. they are always simmering right below the surface, but instead of telling my husband what i'm really worried about i yell. i attack. i scream.

what Ann told her husband (or asked him, really) is what hit me:
"Are women really like ambulances? When we are most in need of tender care, we’re these screaming sirens? And that’s why men pull far away — getting out of the way and off the road?"

that is definitely the case with my hubby. he tries to get out of the way and let my anger blow over, let the ambulance zoom by. the problem is, i have this tendency to veer off the road to come after him, running him over anyways.

as valentine's day approaches, i'm thinking more and more about love and God's definition of it (more on that later...). that has me, of course, thinking more and more about the man i'm spending my life with.
(wow--we were so little!)

what's wonderful is knowing that God gave me a guy who is willing to put up with all my crazy :0)
 he pushes me to do things i would never have imagined doing otherwise, things i wouldn't have had the nerve to do without him (like physics...and writing...).

the least i can do is stop running over him when he moves aside to let the screaming ambulance pass. maybe even put on the brakes, turn off the siren, and realize that he's not going anywhere.

he loves me, in spite of my faults. because of them, in some cases, which is a pretty incredible thing. 

 my prayer after reading Ann's post is this: the next time i catch myself starting to rage over something, i pray God will help me to recognize the fears behind the anger, to realize that it isn't caused by my groom's faults but by my own insecurities.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

i can't do it!

 (not my desk, but i can assure you...mine would be pretty similar!)
ever had one of those days?
you know the ones--everything is piling up, both literally and figuratively.

the kids and the husband are all begging for attention--with good reason.

papers are waiting to be graded (it really isn't a good idea to give every class a test at the same time, but for some reason i keep doing it. what's that definition of insanity again? "doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results." but i digress...)

laundry is overflowing...especially easy to do when the washer isn't working and you live *waayyy* far away from a laundromat...

kids toys are all over the house.

there are words begging to be written, ideas drowning out all the sane voices in my head...

i'm in the middle of one of those days right now. to be more honest, i would have to say i'm in the middle of one of those years right now (yes, i know it's just february. i'm a teacher, so "year" is a totally different time frame for me now).

i look around me at all the things i have to get done. i see all the tasks that are unfinished, all the things i thought i would have figured out by now. i look at this thing called my life and wonder how i let it get away from me. i see all the demands on
      my time
           my energy
                my emotions
and sometimes i want to just hide myself away for a while. i don't want to have to keep it all together--doing so is sapping my strength, all across the board, on every level imaginable.

hmm.
my strength?
wait a minute.

why in the world am i trying to do everything by myself, in my own strength?
that's just crazy!

in Philippians, Paul reminds us, "i can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

i can do everything, right?
John tells us that Jesus said, "without Me you can do nothing."

i don't know about you, but for me that's sometimes a little hard to handle.
i like being able to do things on my own.  
in all honesty, i don't much like being told i can't do something. that's usually when i do everything possible to prove wrong whoever just told me that i couldn't do it.

the problem is, Jesus is the one who said i can't do anything without Him. so now i'm either tasked with trying to disprove the Master of the Universe... or with believing Him.

so, now i go back to that verse..."through Christ." 
He doesn't need me to do all this stuff by myself. He doesn't even want me to.
in Matthew we are given some more of Jesus's words:  "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light."

He wants to take my burdens, all of them.
He is waiting for me to cry out like Moses did:"i can't do this by myself-it's too much"
then, He will give me rest.

as much as i don't like to admit my weaknesses, that's what i have to do.
it's in my weaknesses that i get the chance to see God's awesome strength. 

*check out the words to a song by Casting Crowns called "in me" 
definitely a theme song for me...

  

Friday, February 3, 2012

where did He go?

so, there's this girl i took some of my upper level physics classes with while i was finishing up my undergrad studies. she's finishing her undergrad right now and is looking at grad school for the fall, getting acceptance letters and faced with making the decision of where to go. i'm incredibly happy for her, don't get me wrong. she worked really hard and definitely deserves to be choosing where to go to do her graduate work.

the thing is, at the same time i'm reminded of where i was a year ago--and how much differently my life is right now than i had planned on it being.

hmm.
ouch.

i finished my undergrad with a pretty good GPA. not the best it could've been, but then again i was a non-traditional student, married, with two under 4 at home. my overall GRE score was pretty good--the math side was about average, but the verbal was way up there. i had good recommendation letters (i think--never actually saw them or anything, but i'm pretty sure the professors who wrote them for me liked me. or at least were ready to get me out of their hair, maybe!). surely all that stuff would work together to get me where i wanted to go.

except, it didn't. 

and instead of choosing where to go to school for my graduate work, i was trying to figure out what to do with my life.

i watched an episode of castle the other day (one of my favorite shows, although i'm a few episodes behind right now. need to fix that...)where his daughter found out that she hadn't been accepted to stanford.

she was crushed.
she had spent her life working hard to make sure everything would work out the way she wanted it to in the future. now, here she was, being told she didn't get to go to the college she chose.

she feel apart.
if this wasn't going to work out, what had she spent her life working toward? had it all been a waste of time?
(in case you're wondering, castle isn't the type of show where everything always "works out"--she didn't get a second letter telling her a mistake had been made or anything like that.)


a year ago, that's where i was.
after a struggle to figure out what i thought God had planned for my life, i had settled on medical physics. i took all those physics and biology classes i mentioned before so that i would not only be prepared for grad school, but also so that i would be (i thought) a competitive applicant. my family spent a summer camping in an apartment in toledo so i could take part in a research program in medical physics--something sure to get me in for school there the next fall, right?


when i didn't get in, i fell apart.
the difference was, i was married with two kids under 4 at home. 


if it hadn't been for that, if i had been, say, 21 like i would have been if i had gone straight into physics after high school (gulp),
i don't even want to think about what would have happened to me.


there have been multiple times that my life has been flipped upside down, things i'll probably get into later but that would make this already lengthy post waaayyy too long. in all of those times, i've looked around me and wondered where God went. it would make me feel really good to be able to say that a year ago i wasn't asking that question, that i had learned enough the other times to not have to.


the thing is, i apparently hadn't learned, and once again i was looking around trying to figure out where God had gone.


now, with a year of distance between me and this particular life-flipping moment, i can say that He was there. He hadn't gone anywhere, i just wasn't seeing.
(picture by my sister, Sarah)

in fact, when i look back at all of those moments, though i still don't understand them, i can see where He worked in them---for me.

i'm in a totally different place today than i was a year ago, in so many ways.
physically, mentally, emotionally, and probably any other "-lly" word you can think of.
don't get me wrong, i still can't see what God's plan is for me. i'm still struggling with that (and with coming to terms with the fact that i'm not the one making the plans for my life), but i am learning to see Him in the midst of my storms and struggles.

there is a song by Casting Crowns called "praise You in this storm"
i'm not very good at it yet, this praising thing no matter what's going on around me.

but i'm learning.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

dreams

i started a reading plan on a website called YouVersion (note the link on the side of the page). it is by Joyce Meyer, which i'm really excited about. my plan, of course, was to read it everyday.

what has happened, though, is a bit different. i read thursday's, the 27th, the first day of the plan...
                          ...and then i stopped.

i can give excuses--i was sick for the last 4 days, i had a sick husband and sick kids--but exactly how much energy does it take to get online? (especially when you are like us and your tv and computer are one in the same...) the thing is, i don't think i really have an excuse. 

i just didn't do it.

the funny thing (my mom would call it a "God thing") is, when i started it up again this morning, planning on catching up really quick because each day has a short verse and then something Joyce Meyer wrote, i stopped at day 2.

it wasn't the verse that got me. don't get me wrong--the verse is good and all, just not quite what got through my thick skull this morning. what really made me stop was the short devotional for the day (for friday, but that's okay!).

the first line Joyce Meyer wrote was "what is the dream that God's placed in your heart? i'm not asking if you have one, i already know it's there because God gives all of us dreams."

i don't know about you, but to me it is really nice to read something like that.

my dream is to write (as is obvious by both this blog and my other one ). for a long time, i wouldn't tell people that.

i guess i was afraid of what people would think. it was hard enough telling people i was going to major in physics, something that seemed to have real, practical applications (that could be debatable right now, but that's a story for a different day).


if i told people i wanted to write, what would they think of me? that's a crazy idea, and it brings to mind the whole "starving artist" lifestyle.


not something that works well for a family.


instead, i went to school and pushed writing aside. it was a secret thing for a long time, something i didn't tell anybody about. my husband was the only one of my family who even knew for a while.


how great is it to hear that your dream--that one you maybe pushed aside, buried deep in your heart, kept a secret because it might seem crazy to other people--is the dream God gave you?


you know what else is funny?
since i first told my friends and family that i want to write, i've gotten nothing but support from them for this crazy dream i have.


funny, huh?

so, what dream has God given you?