Friday, March 30, 2012

me, little

i realized today, while reading another blog, that although i've been pouring out who i am right now here, for everyone to see, i haven't told you where i come from.

i wrote about who i am, but i didn't write about how i got that way.

i've talked a lot about the path ahead of me, but i haven't given you a picture of the path that has led me to where i am right now.

so, that's what this is the start of. i don't know how many posts it will take, but i want you all to know who this crazy girl is and what has made her maybe a little different...

my story.
it's long, and when i write i tend to get a bit carried away.
since that's the case, i don't want to hit you with one massive, novel of a blog post. i guess i'm going to get all fancy here and start a "series."

here goes--

i was born in arkansas to a teacher/coach father and the epitome of the doting mother. i was the second baby, a little girl to follow the firstborn son.

 that's me there on the right--the one with the curls is my cousin. i was a little blonde haired, blue-eyed girl. definitely all-american, right?

we were definitely the all-american family. i was raised in church. right before i started kindergarten my family moved back "home" to the town both my parents grew up in and where the majority of my extended family still lived. my little sister was born in october of that year, the product in part of my mom hearing my prayers for God to send me a baby sister when she walked into my room one night.

in my hometown, pop got a job as the girls' basketball coach and a high school math teacher. i was blessed to get to have a mom who stayed home and was there to see us off in the morning and to welcome us home after school. we were carted to many ball games, and my mom says she watched my baby sister get passed from one end of the bleachers to the other at a home game one night.

there were many nights for many years that found me doing homework in the bleachers. my sister napped on a pallet of blankets between the bleacher rows many times. despite the late nights, we were still at church on sundays. pop was a deacon at the first baptist church in our hometown and worked with the RAs (a youth/missions group for guys) and my mom worked with the acteens (a group for 7-12th grade girls) and started children's church.

i always knew what i call the "sunday school answer" for everything, and i don't remember a time when i wasn't singing "Jesus loves me" or memorizing bible verses. i always knew God loved me, and i don't remember a time when i didn't love Him.

it was during a revival that i actually asked Jesus into my heart. i was right about 9 years old, and as is the case in most baptist church revivals the visiting preacher was talking about sin and fire and brimstone (well, maybe not exactly in those terms, but you probably get the drift).

in my church, all the kids tended to sit together. our parents were smart--they knew not to let us out of their sight, so there were always two groups of kids filling the pews at the front of the church: one, the youth group, and the other was filled with all of us who were too young for youth group but old enough to think it was uncool to sit with your parents at church.

during the service, i moved back to sit with my mom. i remember her putting her arm around me while i wiped tears off of my face.

now remember, i was only 9. there weren't any deep dark secrets in my life. for that matter, there probably weren't any little light secrets, either. afterall, i lived in a small town of roughly 2,000 people and my dad was the coach. that doesn't lend itself to too many secrets.

that night, though, i realized that even if i didn't have anything society considered majorly bad in my life, my sins were separating me from God just as much as if i had been doing the things even a seriously corrupted world sees as bad.

for the first time, i knew that i couldn't spend eternity with God if i didn't ask Him to forgive me.
 unless i asked Jesus into my heart, i would spend all of eternity away from God.

i wasn't old enough to know much more than that, but that was enough. i went to the front and knelt down at the steps. i remember looking across and seeing the girl i had been sitting with kneeling up there, too.

there have been times when i've looked at this first part of my testimony and been...i'm not really sure what word i'm looking for. not really disappointed, but kind of along those lines. when we would go to church camps when i got into those teenage years, the speakers there would usually have what i saw as dramatic testimonies of their conversion.

i heard them talk about being saved from drugs or satanic beliefs or generally self-destructive lifestyles. i listened to these testimonies, and there was a little voice inside me saying, "yours isn't good enough. what were you pulled out of? how bad was a 9-year old little girl who was in church every time the doors opened? who will ever get anything from your testimony?" that voice was made a little louder by the fact that by that time i was a preacher's daughter, but i'll get into that later.

if i had known then that my testimony would change, that i would definitely have darkness come into my life that would become part of my story, i would have been begging to keep the squeaky-clean testimony of that little girl.

i warned you that this would get long, and i've definitely done a bit of rambling already. so, i guess this is where i'm going to stop for the moment.

i hope, when i get done with being long winded (maybe you can blame it on that whole "preacher's daughter thing i mentioned!) you'll have a little better understanding of who i was and by that of who i am. maybe as i write through this i'll even get a better idea myself...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

the maze (or why i'm not looking for a road map)

so, i had this great idea this morning that i would start a series of posts (getting fancy, right?) on what proverbs 31 says about women.

i even started some notes, starting with what seems to be the general consensus of what a "christian woman" is thought to be, going on to what society says women should be, and winding my way around to the proverbs chapter.

sounds great, right?
well, as is often the case in my life...plans changed.

i started this morning off right (for the first time in a long time, to be honest) by reading my bible. i flipped straight to proverbs 31, right to the section i was planning on writing about. that's where i saw a note i had written in the margins to check out a verse in chapter 18. if i had my bible right here next to me i would tell you what verse it was, but all i have right now is the digital version that doesn't have all my notes in it. oh well!

well, reading that verse led me to flipping forward a bit through the book and eventually "stumbling on" a verse in chapter 20:
"man's steps are ordained by the LORD. how then can man understand his way?" verse 24

 i have this thing (obviously) about wanting to be able to see the path that is laid out before me. i can't help but think that it would be so much easier to trust that God knows where He's leading me if i could just see the map.

first off, that shows that i have an issue with trusting God.
not quite a trait i have that i was anxious to shine a light on...

to get off that (uncomfortable) train of thought, i'll move on to the other part of that thought: it would be so much better if i could just see the map!

this verse made me think this morning. it gives me the impression that even if i could see the map, i still wouldn't understand where i was headed.

in my life, i think that map would end up looking a bit like this:source for the maze

sure, you can see the final destination, but what about all those crazy twists, turns, and dead ends along the way?

i don't know about you, but i think that if i saw a map that looked like that i wouldn't be very quick to take the journey.

i have no idea where i am in that maze right now, no clue how many more twists and turns there are until i reach the final destination there at the center.                                              

how cool is it to know that God is the one who has made this maze for me? 

He knows that i have no idea where i'm going.
     He knows that i am in the middle of it with no clear view of the end.
He knows that i feel lost, despite the fact that He's guiding my steps.
     and guess what?    
     He doesn't expect me to understand the path ahead.

so, though it's great to know that i've just made the next turn, i know i'm still in the maze. i'm trusting in the fact that the map wouldn't make sense to me if i saw it, so i might as well just keep going where He's leading.

how about you?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012's been a while!

how is everybody? it seems like it's been a long time since i wrote last. we had spring break last week and i didn't have internet access for a big part of it (no, we weren't anywhere remote--just at my parents').

i've been chomping at the bit to get on here because i have big news--my family is in for a huge change. those of you who have been following my journey here have had a glimpse of the stress and uncertainty in my life right now. some of you have sent prayers up on my behalf, not really knowing what you were praying for. 
first off, thank you.
i've definitely felt your support.

that said, the "brand new information!" (sorry--i had to throw in the "friends" reference...)
we found out at the beginning of spring break that i've been accepted into a medical physics graduate program!

i am beyond excited right now, and it has been really hard to keep this news quiet for the last week. i had to tell my administrators at school that i won't be teaching next year first, which i definitely wasn't looking forward to in the least.

this program is where i thought i would end up last fall. seldom have i understood God's timing, and this time was no exception. this year has taught me a lot, though, not the least of which is not to take my kids' teachers for granted in the future!

this year has been more terrifying
more stressful
more rewarding than i would ever have imagined.

i've worked with kids who have challenged me
broken my heart
changed my life forever.

i'm thankful for the lessons i've learned (though i've not been to thrilled while learning them).

now, my family is looking at starting the next chapter of our life. we have quite an adventure ahead of us, and i'm trying really hard to take my mom's advice and not just trade one set of worries for another.

although there's plenty to worry about: finding somewhere to live, going from a salary to nothing, my husband finding a job, managing with one vehicle while i'm in school and my husband is working and one kid is in kindergarten and the other is in pre-school, packing over the next 4 months while finishing my teaching year and helping get things ready for my sister's wedding (i'm working on her veil right now...silly me said "why spend $125 for a veil when i could just put the invisible beads on the invisible thread on the essentially invisible material?". i've since told my mom and sister that i now understand why they were charging $125--tedious work, but i love getting to do it for her)...

these next few months will definitely be hectic, with lots of things that i will be able to get stressed out about if i let it happen.

right now, though, i'm excited about this new opportunity. i'm praying that i will find God's plan in this next step, that i won't forget to glorify Him. i'm excited about the possibilities our future holds, and i'm praising the One who holds our future.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

raising my daughter

i just read this blog (thanks for posting it on facebook, Jill!). it made me smile, so i thought i would share it.

for anybody who doesn't want to take the time to click over to read the article, Lysa TerKeurst was talking a little bit about what it was like raising a daughter who doesn't necessarily go along with the norm...that's probably putting it nicely!

for anybody who has been around my little munchkin, you know that i've definitely been tasked with that same thing.

she exasperates me, frustrates me, terrifies me, and amazes me--and i wouldn't change her for the world.

there have been times when i've thought, desperate, that i wished she would just behave, just go along with the norm for a while. i've struggled with worrying about how people judge me as a parent when she's been a puppy at wal-mart or laid on the bottom rack of the cart at the grocery store.

i've watched her roll around at the park while other parents tell their kids, "we don't lay in the grass."

i've let her run out into the summer rain like this:

i've watched her play outside in a tutu, knee high striped socks, and high heels.

i've seen her climb 20 feet up a tree.

i've heard her (already, in pre-school) tell me she can't wear one of her favorite shirts because some other girl will make fun of her...then smiled the next day when she wore those striped socks pulled up over her purple pants...which were under a crocheted skirt...with a "drama queen" t-shirt.

we've had battles that make me wonder what her teen years will be like.

for as long as she's been able to talk, she's asked hard questions about God that i didn't expect her to even think about for a few years.

she's had insights i never expected--
like asking me why God doesn't talk out loud to us like He did to moses. my "sunday school answer" about Him talking to our hearts wasn't enough. her answer to that? "i wish He would talk to me out loud, because it's hard to know what He wants when He's quiet," said with tears clouding her blue eyes.

she's strong willed
she definitely isn't one to blend into the crowd, very much unlike her mom.

i've cried and prayed, wondering why in the world God gave me this wonderful, difficult little girl. how in the world am i going to raise a little girl who is so unlike me in so many ways?

at the same time, though, i have been so blessed by her.
you know what i think?
these traits, the ones that make her such a challenge right now (and i don't even want to try and imagine what those teen years i mentioned will be like), are the traits that i know will make her such an amazing child of God. her stubborn nature, the way she questions every rule, her wild passion for life--those are the things that are going to make her unstoppable.

i can't wait to see how God uses this crazy little girl in the future...
...especially knowing how much He's used her already in my life!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

a verse to claim...

after pouring out my heart here yesterday, i stumbled (haha--guess it was a "God thing") across a verse. i think i saw it in the king james version, but i'm going to share the message's take on it with you all...

"but I'll take the hand of those who don't know the way, who can't see where they're going. I'll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I'll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don't fall into the ditch. These are the things I'll be doing for them--sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute." ~isaiah 42:16

i've used a metaphor quite a bit like this one before to describe my walk with God, saying that i know He's leading me down this path i can't see. i've described it like this: sometimes, i feel like the light God is leading me with is something very similar to a lightning bug. it shows up faintly for a minute, then the light flashes off and shows up a little further down the trail.

the thing is, that isn't how this verse paints the picture at all.

in isaiah, God says He will be a personal guide to those of us who can't see where we're going. the new international version puts it a little differently:  
"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. these are the things I will do; I will not forsake them."

i've been walking on this path in the dark, thinking i'm struggling on my own to follow a God who keeps getting just a little further away, but that's not it at all.

instead, He's right next to me, acting as my personal guide. He's not leaving my side, it's just that i'm walking blind, moving with my eyes closed. those brief moments when i see His light?

those are the moments when i open my eyes.


Monday, March 12, 2012

what doesn't kill you...

"what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
that's what they say.

sometimes, i wonder who they are, and what kind of easy life they have.

i don't know about you, but when i'm in the middle of a bad situation--things going on that just don't make sense, that seem to be tearing everything apart--i don't usually stop to remember that i'll be better for it.

when i'm struggling through the crashing waves
fighting to keep my head above water
desperately trying to catch a breath
i don't think, "wow, if i manage to get out of this without drowning, i'm going to be a much better swimmer!"

you wanna know something?

i don't think they think that way, either.

right now, i'm in those waves. my whole family is, to be honest. we're waiting to find out what's going to happen with the rest of our life (well, waiting for news about next fall that will impact the rest of our life). we are recovering from illness (me and both kids. my husband is struggling with pneumonia). we are dealing with the craziness that comes with school and spring. i'm dealing with the fact that i'm letting some dreams fade that shouldn't. there are some other struggles that are a bit too personal to post here for all the world to see.

the sea is definitely crashing around me, and sometimes i just have to gasp for air and then let my self sink below the waves for a while.

there have been a lot of storms in my almost 28 years, most of which have been in the last 8 of those years. yes, when i look back at most of them i can see good things in the changes that have come about as a result of making it through those storms. i've gotten better at treading water because of them. yes, i guess i should say that they are right.

the thing is, when i'm in the middle of the storms i don't really care how much stronger i'm getting because of them.

i just want out of the storm.

right now, i'm peter in that limbo part of his faith story--i've taken that step out of the boat and for a moment i was walking on the water. i've started looking at the waves around me, though, and i'm sinking below them.

i know what i've always called the "Sunday School answer"--i know the Savior is there, waiting on me to just call out for help, waiting for me to reach up and take His hand.

the problem is, i'm desperately treading water with everything i've got. when you're trying not to drown, sometimes the hardest thing to do is reach out for help. after all, that means you have to stop trying to use your arms to swim.

i'm going to take the biggest breath i can gulp
and sink below the waves for a bit
so i can gather my thoughts in the calm that is still there under the waves
and then use my hands for the only thing they can do right now--
reach out to my Savior for a lifeline.

Friday, March 2, 2012

life is good...

my life isn't perfect. my family struggles to make the ends of the months meet. my kids have days where everything they say comes out as a whine (i have to admit i have those days, too). we get sick. my house is a mess. i'm not in the job of my dreams. my first finished manuscript is getting older as we speak without being sent out. sometimes i feel like my 7th grade class will be the death of me.
life isn't perfect. i'm not perfect.

but i have a God who is.

sometimes i lose sight of that.
i see everything around me 
and i forget to look up.

i serve a God who is perfect, 
whose plans are perfect, 
and whose gifts are even perfect:

"every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." (james 1:17, NIV)

 He has given me many gifts. first of all, i've lived for over 10,000 days. that's a lot of days i've been given gifted. 
He's given me a family to love, a family that loves me. 
He's given me friends i would still count as family, even though we haven't seen each other in years in some cases. 
He's given me this crazy dream of writing.
He's given me eyes to see the beauty in the world around me.
He's given me...well, everything!

this perfect God, the One who has given me so much, hears a lot of whining on my part. so often my prayers to Him turn into something i'm not proud of--a whole lot of me asking why He hasn't given me certain things.

i've made a resolution. not a new year's resolution because i don't stick to those things ever and have finally stopped making them, but sort of a heart resolution:
i will be thankful for all the gifts He has given me.
life truly is good.

"enter with the password: 'thank You!' make yourselves at home, talking praise. thank Him. worship Him. for God is sheer beauty, all-generous in love, loyal always and ever." (psalm 100:4-5, the message)

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