Monday, April 16, 2018

I Am Living in Sin

I am living in sin. Many of us joke about it. We take medications because of it. We call it a “struggle” or “the way I am”. We’re insecure about it and blame it on everything from stress to genetics to diets not working to medical conditions. We’re depressed, broken, and unhealthy and we don’t call it what it is. We look for quick fixes and extreme measures to cover up this sin. But until we DEAL with the sin that it is, the nasty dark side of this sin, it will continue to completely consume us. 

I am overweight. I am overweight because I have chosen to live in sin. I have refused to accept the fruit of the Spirit of self-control. I have given in to my laziness and refuse to accept the only possession that God gifted me with His own hands. I was knit together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:19) and have allowed myself to unravel my threads one at a time and have done nothing to stop it besides blaming it on my circumstances instead of acknowledging that I have been the one untying the strings myself. That I am slowly committing suicide. 

God and I work things out together a lot. When we have major things that He is revealing to me, it becomes consuming. It’s like He knows me well enough (duh) to know that if He isn’t INSISTENT then I will brush it off and move on to dealing with the “acceptable” sins. My brain has been so muddled with this concept that I’m trying to make sense of it all myself. So, hang with me as we process it together. 

I also want you to hear me say that this is not just an issue of a person whose pants are too tight. I openly acknowledge that I also struggled with this same sin when I was a teenager/young adult and I battled with my own bodily abuse by calorie restricting and personal starvation. Or when I was a healthy weight, but had high cholesterol to a point where my doctor wanted me to go on medication. I was “skinny fat”. Healthy weight, but feeding my body crap food without regards to the necessary fuel my system needed. I also want you to know that God made us in different shapes and sizes and we’re not all called to weigh 105 lbs and be a size 2. Some of us DO have conditions and genes that make weight loss harder than others. But hear me, this is NOT about weight loss. The vast majority of us who fall into the “overweight” or “obese” category are there on our own doing. Or lack of doing. 

I have been in church three times a week for 35.5 years. We are also completing Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and I began to think about how often, in churches, we discuss “being good stewards” or “stewardship” in regards to caring for our finances or  our church buildings. While many of these are gifts from the Lord, none of them were handed to us straight from His hands like our bodies were. Why is all of our focus about being good caretakers about those things and I venture to say never hear anyone discuss the sin of lack of exercise or continual poor food choices. (And, if I’m being fair, we often hear about substance abuse because…. well, if I’m being honest, those things, if we’re using them, rarely do we carry them with us for the world to see…) I HAVE heard many lessons and sermons about “speaking the truth in love” and “holding your brother and sister accountable” but, do you know, as I have progressively packed on a lot of weight, I haven’t had a single person discuss it with me? I wonder how it would have been differently if I had begun to openly engage in an affair? Would everyone that I love just accept it as a “struggle” and the way I “deal with stress”? All the while, Americans who qualify as “overweight” or “obese” are filling our pews and we continue to NOT address the personal abuse we are inflicting on our bodies. Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, and a huge number of those are self-inflicted by our lifestyles. Substance abuse isn’t even listed in the top 10. But which are we spending our time talking about?

I am not advocating for people of healthy weight to begin to confront those of us who aren’t there. That isn’t helpful. (And may end with some people receiving black eyes) But, we often see our spouses, family, or friends who are trying to go through the muck of coming out from drowning in these sinful decisions that aren’t bathed in the Spirit and ask them to get ice cream or pizza. Or to just cuddle and watch a movie instead of going for a walk. Or bring them a cake as a “gift” and instead actually pose as a stumbling block to our sister or brother that causes them to slip back into old patterns (Romans 14:13). I equate this to the same level of going to a friend struggling with pornography and inviting them to see a new website that they may love. I mean, it was a tough week. Didn’t they deserve it? Can’t they just go straight back to not watching porn the next day? (*insert facepalm*) 

We know the truth. In elementary school, we were given clear guidelines for fueling properly: eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Lean protein. Whole grains. Limit sugars and fats. Move and increase your heart rate for at least 30 minutes a day for 5-6 days a week. We have portion sizes that tell us when to stop. But we refuse to listen to our bodies as our stomachs are full because we have no self-control. None of that is defined in crash diets that discuss being “skinny” or “cheating”. Since when did we start to look at overcoming sin through those lenses? There aren’t quick fixes for overcoming addictions. It is daily making a choice to not engage in activities that will lead you to temptation. 

And don’t get me started on how often I tell my children that they can only have one sweet a day all the while I hide from them to eat more than my share of processed sugars because “I’m an adult”. Or I tell them to “Get up and move” because they have been watching too much TV all while I sit dormant. I have attempted to lose weight and blamed it on the program not working. When, in reality, I was the one that wasn’t working. I felt entitled. Like I could wish away the consequences of me living contrary to God’s Word. 

In my opinion, one of the biggest problems is that our culture has disconnected our physical health from our sinful nature. This has been a struggle that we allow programs and trainers to fix instead of begging for the Holy Spirit to give us more than a portion of self-control and to lead us not into temptation and to deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:13) We give over our desire of health to become the god of sex-appeal or desire to one-up our neighbor. We would rather take a pill than address our weaknesses and desires for a change with those that are directly causing us to stumble. (My toes are getting so walked on right now that I literally am picking them up while I’m writing.) 

It is time we finally pick that piece of sawdust out of our eye before we continue to pursue the plank in everyone else’s. (Matthew 7:3) Until I address, repent, and run from this stronghold and these chains that have bound me and so easily entangle me with every meal and with every desire of laziness, I won’t be able to fully run the course that is in front of me. (Hebrews 12:1) Both literally and spiritually. 

Why do we refuse to give Christ this victory? Why do we not think that because of Christ’s love that we are more than conquerors? (Romans 8:37) Why do we insist on living in chains? Why are we determined it’s too hard or that it’s too big for the Lord to help us climb out from under this nutritional debt? Why do we pray more for the rescue of loved ones from THEIR own sins while an overwhelming majority of us Americans can’t qualify for insurance incentives because of our weight, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol… (I ran into that last week….) 

Am I saying that we are never allowed a treat? No. You absolutely are. But when those “treats” become an addiction that have adverse affects on our health, they have gone past a “treat” and has ventured into being a weapon of mass destruction. 1 Corinthians 10:23 says “‘I have the right to do anything’ you say, but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything,’ but not everything is constructive.” Ask yourself that. Is what I’m eating, drinking, or other ways in which you get substances in your bodies, building my body up to be as healthy as possible? You have two options: CONstruct or DEstruct. As our bodies are changing each day, we have to daily do our jobs to maintain them. Including taking a sabbath. If you’re not growing, you’re dying, right? 

And why are we so quick to dismiss health and fitness goals as “vanity”? (Y’all are seriously getting to wrestle with me here…) 

The other day, I was doing a hard workout. A workout I didn’t want to do. I was finishing my workout and considering dropping down to only giving a small portion of my effort until my 7 year old daughter walked in the room to watch me. Then I was flooded with the words from Titus 2:3-5 “… teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live… to teach what is good…then they can urge the younger women…. to be self-controlled…” I had to show Nina that she has to consider her health. As the sadomasochist instructor on my workout video celebrated that it was “time for a bonus round!” and instructed us to get our weights and get in a squat and hold it until she said to get up. I wanted to skip it. I felt the desire to only drop half into my squat. Then I turned and stared into that sweet face. The face that came in to watch me work hard. The one who has heard me talk about me making poor choices for so long and now I have to work really hard to get my body healthy again. She came to watch me make changes. She came to watch me KEEP MY COMMITMENT TO MYSELF AND TO MY FAMILY. I had no choice but to drop into that squat and let her see my legs shake, my face grimace and for her to hear my grunts and see me sweat. It's time my daughter watched me FIGHT for what's right in own body as much as she sees me fight for other types of righteousness.  

My job, as her mother, is to teach her about Jesus. It is my job to teach her to be compassionate to others, to be a productive and independent human being. But it is also my job to not teach her about being “skinny” or about doing as little as possible in my workouts so she can check it off her list or that having an occasional treat as “cheating”. My job to teach her to be a good steward of the only possession she came into this world with. I I refuse for her to hear me speak of my fitness journey as what I "can" and "can't" eat but what is the best fuel. My job is to teach her to invite the Holy Spirit to fill her with ALL of His fruits and not just the ones that are easy. A daily dose of Him to fall on us like the manna on the Israelites. (Exodus 16) For each day to get the amount of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. for THAT day. (Galatians 5:22) To not crash diet to reach a point or an occasion. To not only overcome sin until reaching a desired number on the scale. But to be a continual steward of my body. To love myself as Christ loved the church. To teach my children when we rise and we go to sleep (Deuteronomy 6:4-7) that considering my physical health with all of my actions isn’t an action of vanity but of being a good caretaker of what I was given. That loving yourself isn’t selfish but that it’s necessary. That exercise makes me feel better, function better, and makes me a nicer person. That overcoming sin in their life and in my life IS possible. But that I need a heck of a lot more than a diet plan or a workout agenda. That I need Jesus to wrap me up every day. To offer me grace so that I am able to offer it to myself and to others. 

The greatest commandment is this: to love the Lord your God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Mark 12: 30) Until we give our physical health over as “sin” and not as a “struggle” or “the way I am”, those aren’t possible. I was told one time we shouldn’t say “Forgive me of my sins” because we don’t know what we’re turning away from until we acknowledge that a certain action is indeed sin. We have to name it and then tell someone that you’re struggling in your sin. The only way to offer our bodies as living sacrifices is to renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2) and to put on our new selves and die to our self. (Ephesians 4) 

In the same way we encourage others to flee from their sins, it’s time we, as both the Church (Big C church) and as Christ followers that gluttony is a sin and that we bask in it. We encourage it. We laugh at it. We celebrate it. We have competitions to see who can be the biggest glutton of all. How would our other sins look if we exercised the same “all or nothing” mentality we bring to our health and fitness journeys? Proverbs 23:21 categorizes us gluttons with drunkards. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 reminds us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we should honor OUR temples as we honor our church buildings. That we should stop calculating those who make their fitness a priority as them making it a god or as vanity because we’re insecure that they’re more disciplined than we are. (Oh, how my own insecurity is one of my biggest enemies.)

1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 tells us that controlling our bodies is the will of God and it is our sanctification. 
2 Timothy 1:6-7 tells us to fan the flame of the gift of God by power, love, and self- control. Gal 5:1 tells us that we are set free by Christ FOR FREEDOM and to stand FIRM. 
Proverbs 5:23 tells us that we will die because of lack of self-discipline. 
Colossians 3:9-10 tells us that we can’t lie to each other about our old and new selves by that we are being renewed in the image in which we were created; the image of God. Romans 8:21 tells us that we will be frustrated by our sin and that we will be liberated from its bondage. 
And Paul lays is ALL on the line in 1 Corinthians 9:27 when he tells us that we will be DISQUALIFIED FROM PREACHING the Truth if we don’t discipline our bodies and keep them under control. 

I often say that the day I stop learning is the day I die. May today be the day that I say the same about the day I stop disciplining my body. 

Hebrews 12:28 says “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

Let us be consumed with Christ as we receive His gift of life and accept that we are called to have life and have it abundantly. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Sounds of My Childhood

Tonight, I spent some of my birthday money. Okay, let me back up my truck.

Our yard has two enormous trees that drop these enormous nuts (I think Lee said they're hickory?). It sounds like someone was just shot every 30 seconds. And the leaves shed from August to November. So, I decided last night that I was going to use Lee's leaf blower to blow some leaves and nuts off of our deck. Funny thing though: I am terrible at pulling that little cord thingy that starts manly things like lawnmowers or weedeaters or blowers...

(Who am I kidding? I've never started a lawn mower in my life. I did try to weed eat a few times and one time chopped off half of my grandpa's magnolia bush and that one on the far right of his yard was significantly smaller due to this mishap. And he gave me a hard time about it all of the time until he died. Just providing entertainment.)

ANYWAY, I decided that I was going to blow off the deck. Y'all. I literally almost broke my leg/hip trying to start the dang thing. (And of course, one of my daughters from another mother was here to witness all of this grace.) My leg was still sore and tweaked this morning. It takes serious talent to be this special.

Fast forward to this evening. We were at Lowe's (because, Hi, my name is Carmen and I married a Boso man) and while Lee was returning some enormous screw/bolt thingumabob, I went and looked at blowers. I decided that I was going to spend some of my birthday money and buy a corded blower/vac. When we came home and I ripped into that sucker, (Pun absolutely intended) I tried both the blower and the vacuum function.

As I walked around sucking up leaves (And those awful nuts), I was transported by nearly all of my senses to my childhood. You see, my OCD side is something I come by honestly. Several nights a week in the Fall for all of my life, my dad has been outside with his leaf vac cleaning up the yard. I remember vividly after my grandaddy's death when I was 8. I didn't understand it all, seeing that I was so young.  But, I remember a week or so after he died, it was Halloween. I remember trick-or-treating and coming back to our yard that dad had been working hard to clean and I felt a peace that everything was returning to normal and it was going to be okay. The smell of the leaves mulching as they are extracted from the grass, the sound of the vacuum crunching the dead leaves, the feeling of the air as Fall enters, the sounds of the kids playing in the yard while it was all going on and the look of an abnormally clean yard that had recently been covered in dead fall foliage.

You know, for me, the biggest memories I have of my childhood are the little sounds and smells. The feeling of the finality of a day when I heard mom turn on the dishwasher and flip off the kitchen light. The smell of relaxation of the bacon being cooked for a Saturday morning breakfast. The sound of festivity with the Oak Ridge Boys Christmas tape playing in the car that brought all four of us to singing in the car ride home from church. The smell of the cinnamon lamp ring that mom would put on the lamp on Fridays while we were at school that made the whole house smell like a cinnamon broom while she baked 4 cookies from refrigerated dough (2 for me and 2 for my brother) as she awaited our return from school. Once we came in from school, we would sit down in the living room and this was the birth place of the random question game, "What was the best part of your day?" "What was the worst part of your day?" Every Friday.

As a mother raising children in the social media age where Pinterest dictates the constant feeling of inferiority and likes and comments determine our worthiness to throw a party or craft. (I need no help to feel inferior in both categories), it's easy to feel inadequate. But tonight, as the simple act of removing leaves from my yard transported me back to a brick house 2 hours away that isn't even owned by my family anymore, I began to reflect on something my mom told me a few years back. She said that, "It's not the big things that they [the kids] remember.  I would spend tons of time and effort to try to create a big memory. But now that you all are adults, it isn't the big things you remember, it's the little things that stick around." I found so much comfort in this.

As this year has been a year of me implementing daily disciplines, I have found so much of my business life, spiritual life, relationships, and physical health have all woven together. I listened to a training that one time stated that "Goals are met when we do daily disciplines". It's not met when you cram. It isn't the crash diet and a few weeks of a hardcore exercise program. It isn't spending hours 1x a month working. It's by DAILY doing the little things. Those are the things that stick around. Those are the things that translate to big changes. Those are the ways that goals are met in any area.

Sure, the big things can bring SOME fruit. But, how many people do we know that go to a church camp or a retreat and have a big coming to Jesus moment and then come home and have returned to feeling no change in 2 weeks. Or someone who does a crash diet where they consume 1,000 calories a day and workout for two hours a day and when life happens and they can't sustain it (Or they get too dang hungry), they're back where they were. What causes this? The lack of daily discipline. Daily disciplines, doing the little things every day, are the things that add up.

Don't pull the Valentine's approach to relationships. You can't act like a romantic person 1 day a year and not be able to determine why your relationshps are shot.  IT ISN'T THE BIG THINGS. Do the little things. Send the text when you think of it. Sit down and have a conversation. Open your Bible every day. Clean a little bit of your house every day. Find an exercise program that is life-giving for you (therefore is sustainable) and embrace that time. Invest in your business every day. Don't just show up; put your heart into it.

Proverbs 5:23 says, "He dies for lack of self-discipline and because of his great folly, he is led astray." If you're not growing, you're dying.

The extraordinary is built while being ordinary. Stop putting the pressure on yourself that you have to do the big things. Do the little things first. Give those your attention. And those little things are the ones that are going to get you where you need to be. It's okay to stop and take a breath.

And for the love, someone make that pull cord thing easier to pull.

Monday, July 31, 2017

A New Season

January of 2011. I sat in my living room in Summersville sobbing. Begging God to let this cup pass from me. It was the eve of me returning to teaching after my first maternity leave. I sat nursing a 4 month old baby girl feeling sick to my stomach and desperate for any other option. Not that I didn't love my job. (Because I DID. I REALLY did.) But because I didn't want to miss the moments. I didn't want to pump. I didn't want to shuffle babies to sitters and try to keep all of the balls in the air of the house work, the personal work, all while doing my duties at work.

The next day, I returned to work. I always said that the anticipation was much worse than the reality. Once I got into the swing of it and living my life by lists, we made it work. Nina spent a day a week with her dad, one with each set of grandparents, and two days with some amazing friends who loved on our girl. But it was exhausting.

In 2014, Brooks was born and I found myself in the same place when I returned to work with him. I was tense. I was overwhelmed. I still loved my job, but I felt like I was always behind. I LIVED for snow days because it gave me a few more hours to get ahead. But, I sarcastically began responding to people that I was "Living the dream". The thing was, I began to feel like I was on a hamster wheel to nowhere. Get on it every morning and run as hard and fast as I could until I fell asleep. Get back on it the next day. And the next day. And the next. Until the weekend and I tried to cram as much housework as possible into that small block of 48 hours. I didn't see any hope of getting off of the wheel. Running. Running. Tired, overwhelmed and frustrated that the day only gave me 24 hours.

In 2016, we moved to Huntington. Our first weekend in this new town, Lee and I sat down in the hotel bathroom (Because we didn't have a place to live yet and the kids were asleep.) and decided that I was going to start another new adventure (because our life wasn't adventurous enough when we moved) and begin my own business with Rodan and Fields. It was fun and encouraging and found that it was something I was good at and that I REALLY enjoyed.

As time progressed, we had two amazing babysitters (one the first semester we were here and another for the next school year) in Huntington that were completely Godsent. They loved our babies well. We were comfortable and confident. But I still got up every morning and got on the hamster wheel. I ran hard. My newly diagnosed Psoriatic Arthritis was exacerbated by the constant stress of learning a new job, being a pastor's wife at a new church, having two kids, trying to continue to strip wallpaper and move in the house, laundry, food, I gained 20+ pounds of stress eating and inability to regularly exercise. The wheel was hard. And my feet were moving faster than ever in an attempt to just keep my head above water.

Summer of 2017, our beloved babysitter decided it was time for her to spread her wings and use her degree and get a nursing job. (She seriously will be the best nurse!) As we began to process daycare and struck out on finding in home childcare, we evaluated my business. This "little side gig" wasn't little. This side gig was huge and has so much more growth potential. This "little side gig" was actually enabling me to stay home. It was happening! 6.5 years after I began to search for this opportunity, God has given me the desires of my heart through this amazing business. I had made many amazing friends who had been able to leave their full time jobs for this business and now I get to join them in this incredible journey.

So, after a few phone calls, letters, and emails,  I have resigned my teaching job and I'm off the wheel. I am ready to have time to talk to people and to rest. To not always be on the struggle bus of survival and to soak up the last few years I have of my littlest love being home. I am ready to have opportunities to love on people without the constant stress of the sound of the clock ticking in my ear.

At the turn of the year, I began to read the book "Overwhelmed" by Kathi Lipp and did my personal manifesto. I realized that so much of my manifesto was difficult because I was always on the run. I am ready to make good to these truths that I want to be part of me.

I have never known adult life where "teacher" wasn't in my wheelhouse. I will miss my students and my coworkers something fierce. This is uncomfortable. But change always is, right? But, as I have come to live my life by: nothing changes if nothing changes. And for me to live a life of peace, something had to change. By me saying "yes" to starting my own skincare business, God was able to use that platform to free me from the hamster wheel. As I know transition is hard, I'm ready to be mom full time. I'm ready to see how my business will continue to change my family's life and the lives around me and the lives of others who say "yes". I am ready to see my psoriatic arthritis go into remission because of reduced stress. I am ready for cuddles on cold mornings in the winter, the grocery store in the morning hours, not feeling like I'm constantly catching up, and to have time to meet with young women to encourage them in the faith.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says "To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven." A new season is here. And I am excited to explore my new purpose.

And the next time I say "I'm living the dream" I'm going to not be using my gift of sarcasm.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sometimes, We Need to be Offended

I was in my third year of undergrad at UT when I ACTUALLY got into the nitty gritty of my education classes. I remember getting my 40 page syllabus for my deaf education practicum class. (It may be bigger in my memories than it was in real life. In real life, it made me want to throw up) As I looked at the enormity of the class and its requirements, I began to feel overwhelmed. (I was NOT alone in the panic) As we were all expressing our imminent need for a paper bag to breathe into, I stated "All of this is just RETARDED!" The class stopped and looked at me. Like, looked at me in a way that immediately made me want to go back 15 seconds earlier and put all of those words back in my mouth and swallow them and then crawl into the biggest hole. It was after class that I realized that I was a major of a division of special education. And I was using that word to reference something I really didn't like. Out of all the words in the English dictionary, I chose that word. One that isn't even used any more to describe people with cognitive delays. It was at that moment that I realized how offensive I had been to a whole population of humans, their families, their service care providers, and to some of the most marginalized. Because I was being insensitive and not thinking.

Recently, I engaged in a conversation online in regards to a blog titled "One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying". I in NO way ever intended to start an online debate (Honestly, has anyone ever changed their opinion on anything based on a social media debate?!), but it did open up some discussion. One of the statements was that the commenter was tired of people always being offended by something. That she was tired of second guessing every word she says.

I get it. Me too. I'm afraid of being judged if I occasionally don't care that my kids are being quiet because they're watching YouTube for too long. I'm afraid of people thinking I'm unhealthy because I take antibiotics when prescribed or that I use Tilex to clean my showers. I get it that social media gives every single person who has a valid email address a public platform to declare their opinions as gospel and back it up by some other blogger who has unsubstantiated and subjective "data" to verify that their opinions are the only way to see it. It is exhausting. 

But, I'm gonna say this: sometimes, we NEED to be offended. Sometimes, we need to know that our words or our actions are hurtful, or inconsiderate. Sometimes, we need to know that something we are doing is causing others to not feel loved by us as we select a word from our vocabulary. As scripture speaks of not being inconsiderate of people by doing things that offend others, I fear that this is something we have lost out of being annoyed by being asked to change. But what about not being a stumbling block to someone? (1 Cor 8:12-13) What about loving your neighbors? (Matt 22:36-40) What about doing everything, in WORD AND DEED in the name of Jesus? (Col 3:17) 

As you read in all 4 of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), you will read that Jesus regularly offended people by calling them out on their actions. He spoke the Truth to them. They didn't want to hear it and they turned their heads and refused to listen and resolved to stop him. They were set in their ways and didn't want to be told that their ways weren't the way that The Lord had for them. 

Consider Hebrews 10:
12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

We are BEING SANCTIFIED. We need to daily look to be more like Christ and to live a holier life. We aren't done being perfected and made holy until we are called to heaven. Meaning, that, daily, there are changes we need to allow to our words, our actions, and our thoughts to be sure that they all reflect Jesus and are obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:5). If a word I am using to describe someone that was created in the image of God hurts them and makes them doubt my love for them and therefore, doubt Jesus' love for them, then I am sinning deliberately.  
Don't misunderstand my words to say that I'm saying that we need to always be concerned about offending people, that we don't speak the Truth. But, Scripture is VERY clear that, to speak that Truth, it must be done in LOVE. And not just a "I love you, so I'm going to speak without thinking about how those words will feel as they roll off of my tongue and into your soul." But, as "I love you so much that I'm going to love you as the Heavenly Father loves you and I'm going to select my words so carefully that Jesus is all that's heard and not me."
The thing is, it isn't my job to convict people. The Holy Spirit does NOT need my help. He is perfectly sufficient to do His job. My job is clear: to love God and love people. 
Matthew 22:37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
On that day in the Spring of 2004, if a dear friend hadn't told me in love how offensive that word was to others, I probably would have continued to use it without thought. If someone hadn't listened to an activist who said "When you use this word to describe my race or people of my skin color, it hurts." certain words would still be used. Sometimes, we NEED to be offended. Sometimes, we need to change our status quo. 
This isn't about being politically correct. And please don't make it that. Don't debate whether or not someone's sin should be overlooked because you don't want to offend people. If that's what you're taking from this, then you are missing my point. I get that this may leave your toes feeling trampled. Mine have been too. But I'm so glad they were. 
If you're not sure, find a friend and ask. People are so much more gracious than you could ever imagine if you use the phrase, "Hey, I am working with a person who _____ and I don't want to offend them.  What's the proper way to ____?" THAT is love. That is considering the other person. So often, we sin because we are uncomfortable and aren't willing to ask the hard questions. They're welcome and they're okay. Be vulnerable. 
So, read the blogs, consider another perspective. Weigh it with prayer and act as you feel led. When you speak to someone about something that has potential for being offensive, remember that the person that you are talking about or to was called "special" and is part of the "whosoever" in John 3:16. I know that I regularly offend people (My foot thinks its home is permanently in my mouth), but God forbid, that I continue to do it once I am told otherwise. And, Lord, shut my mouth if my words keep a person from knowing the redeeming freedom that is Jesus. 

"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger." James 1:19

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Familytine's Day

One of my least favorite days of college was my senior year of college on Valentine's Day. Anyone who has been in Knoxville in the winter knows that it is COLD. Mind you, I grew up in the mountains of WV. We would get feet of snow at a time and single digit temps were the norm. But, in Knoxville, we would get 37 degree rain. As a college kid, this meant that you would be so cold, you would have to take a hot shower to warm up because that cold rain had soaked all the way down to your soul. I ran into my dorm, soaked, freezing, and the lobby of the sorority dorm was flooded with red roses. Everywhere. You couldn't even see the front desk. I just remember being really annoyed. It was cold and rainy and there were thousands of dollars of roses (THAT WERE GOING TO BE DEAD IN A WEEK) in the lobby. That was the beginning of my deep feeling of BLECH toward Valentine's Day.

For a while, I would wear black just to be a pain on the 14th. I had a wonderful husband who loved me well and he would have been in SERIOUS trouble if he would have spent that much on flowers for me for a holiday. (I mean, buy me a purse or some food, if you're dying to spend money on me. And it had better not be that box of mystery chocolates. Because I'm going to gag if I bite into that one with the cherry cream. Make it that heart shaped box of chickfila nuggets!)

In Summersville, the most WONDERFUL bakery was there and they made small, heart shaped cakes for Valentine's Day for $6. We are talking, their cakes are wedding cakes all of the time. (When I was pregnant with Brooks and on bed rest, I had a mental breakdown because I wanted a Creative Cake for Nina's birthday because she deserved a really good cake for putting up with a mother unable to get off the couch for 3 months, and I didn't think they were going to be able to make it. Seriously, lost my mind over this cake.) My friend from Beckley has driven to Summersville just to get a Creative Cake. It's just the best. AND FOR SIX DOLLARS?! SIGN ME UP, ROSIE!!

Soon after we moved, Nina fell in LOVE with baking. She asked months ago if we could bake our Valentine's Day cake. So, we ordered the heart shaped pan and were off to the races!

Since Lee nor I ever bought into the Valentine's Day scene (and the CROWDS. My introvert dies a little at the thought of going out on Valentine's Day),  we always just did a pot of soup and the Creative Cake and watched a movie. (Except for that one time, we drove to Myrtle Beach in a blizzard to run a half marathon when I was 6 weeks pregnant. *Side eye*)

Nina, however, loves all things celebratory. (I am not lying to you that she sent significant amount of time this morning planning Halloween for this year.) So, since we have always done low-key Valentine's, we're going to combine it this year with her desire to celebrate. We are officially starting FAMILYTINE'S DAY!

We have big plans for all things heart shaped that day to have the ultimate family day! We're doing heart shaped waffles for breakfast, making a heart shaped cake (We can't agree on the flavor), making soft pretzels shaped like hearts (hopefully... I've never actually made them) with a fondue pot of cheese dip, and making heart shaped pizzas for dinner. We've chosen a new movie for us to watch (the Trolls movie), and plan on cuddling and having fun doing nothing.

**To reduce time in the kitchen and increase time together as a family, I'm going to do a lot of it in advance. We'll make the cake and pizza dough on Monday. Also, we'll mix the dry ingredients for waffles and separate the eggs this weekend.

There are tons of ideas for things like this on Pinterest and I highly recommend pumping up Familytine's Day with your crew. We're pretty excited here!

Go all out! Let you kids know they don't have to hate this day because they don't have a significant other  and that love doesn't have to be romantic. Make a big deal out of how much you love them  and make sure you tell them more than once how loved they are by the King.

Now, to decide on the flavor of cake...

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

How Carmen Got Her Groove Back

2016 has been a YEAR. In some ways, it has been amazing. I've never been in such desperate need of a Savior, gotten to meet so many new amazing new people, moved into a great house, have found a new church that has opened themselves to love and to be loved. However, I have NOT been kind to 2016.

I recently polled people as to what are the most over-arching commands in Scripture are and, nearly across the board, the same two kept coming up: Love God, and love others as yourself. There were many variances on what the third one was (Which was really cool to see what was interpreted based on where that person is in life... so neat). But, I began to realize that, in the journey that 2016 has sent us on, I have not done those two well.

When we decided to move, my health took a nose dive. I had a horrible time finding time to house hunt because I always had a cold. The day we moved into our tiny apartment, I came down with a horrible virus that had me getting IV fluids and several trips to the hospital clinic. I had gastrointestinal problems for more than 2 weeks, an ear infection that led to a ruptured ear drum, crazy congestion that turned into nasty bronchitis. And this pattern has continued. Since October, I have had 5 colds and a stomach bug. My hands tingle, my hair is falling out in clumps, I have debilitating fatigue, and often have body aches... my doctor has run every test possible and they've all come back as negative (thyroid, mono, lupus, low vitamin D...) with the exception of an elevated rheumatoid factor that I will have looked at by a rheumatologist in February.

As 2016 draws to an end, I have thought about WHEN I felt the best and what I was doing then. As much as returning to the scene of a crime, I'm returning to the scene of sanity in an attempt to regain mine.

2016 was the year of the move that had months in the tiny apartment and horrible health. 2015, I had a newborn, experienced a spiritual attack triggered by betrayal of a friend, and was balancing working mom + two kids. 2014, I was pregnant and spent many months on bedrest and post partum recovery from HELLP syndrome. 2013, one of my best friend's daughter's tragically died and I had a miscarriage. The last time I felt sane was 2011-2012. That was the last time.

The biggest deficits that I'm currently experiencing is 1) spiritual deficits 2) health deficits and 3) house deficits. Recognizing problems without a plan of attack is just like saying "Yep, there's a fire" without trying to find anything with which to extinguish it.

Here is the plan of change:

1) Spiritual - in 2011, I was actively memorizing scripture with the support of the Siesta Scripture Memory Team. 1 verse every 2 weeks = 24 verses in 2017! Those verses I memorized in 2011 and 2013 are still active in my mind. I have ordered my spiral for 2017 and am getting a new pack of the super sticky notes (super stickies withstand shower steam for the shower mirror). Our church is doing a church-wide plan of reading thru the Bible in a year. I've done this several times, but not for several years. A general deficit in every area can be drawn back to a lack of time studying and knowing the Word of God.

2) Health - I have gained 20 pounds since we decided to move. While this may be another indicator of whatever is going on with my health, it is also has been a year where I have not fueled and treated my body well. I have not exercised, have not been careful about if what I'm putting in my body is FUEL or is just something edible. I have been putting water in my tank of my "car" and complaining that my car doesn't perform as it should. It's time for a tune up and putting GAS in the tank. Starting next week, Lee and I will be doing a cleanse comprised of only whole foods. To tell you how serious I am about how lousy I always feel, this week, I am tapering off my coffee to prepare myself to give it up. Maybe only for a short time, but I don't want any food or drink like I just want to feel good again. (Along with sugar, gluten, dairy, and most meats) After the cleanse is over, we will be doing the new Weight Watchers program paired with at home workouts and running.

3) House - Seeing that, for half of last year, we didn't OWN a home, this one is a little easier than the health change. We are spending this week purging Brooks' room and the toy room and getting them organized. The only spaces that need painted in our house is the laundry room and the hallways/stairwell. We will be reimplementing The Fly Lady house cleaning plan. Spend 15 minutes a day and have a house that's always clean. I've done this since Nina was an infant and it works beautifully when you actually DO it. And yes, there's an app for that.

My favorite scripture is Galatians 5:16 "So, I say walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (ESV) Later, in verse 22, it spells out the Fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. I began to think about how, in the year 2016, I have primarily focused on "patience" and the others have been neglected.

Then I started to examine to whom I have shown the least love, kindness, gentleness, joy, and self control. The answer was me. I loved others, granted them grace and forgiveness. Assumed the best of them. But to myself, I was the easiest target that was treated the worst. I was a failure because my pants were too tight. My house was a mess and I wasn't spending time in the Word and I hid from myself, my husband, and my God because I wasn't worthy.

Matthew 22:38 says, "And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself." I pray that I treat my friends and neighbors better than I treat myself. I realize that, even though I am God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:10), I have not illustrated the Fruits of the Spirit to MYSELF. And that regaining self discipline (Self-control) will be the key to loving the Lord with all heart, mind, and soul (and body) and loving my neighbors, and loving myself.

 I was discussing all of this with Lee on our way to my parents' for Christmas. Once we got to opening presents, my mom got me a bracelet with the Fruits of the Spirit listed with zero knowledge of this conversation that had taken place an hour before. (The Lord has to be entertained by how directly He has to speak to me sometimes.)

Time to focus and get some self-control by the power of the Holy Spirit in 2017.

Revelation 21:5: "And he who was seated on the throne said 'Behold, I am making all things new.' Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Favorite Chex Mix!!

Tis the season to eat chex mix, fa la la la la la la la la 

So, I love many, many, many, many things about Christmas. But, one of my FAVORITES is Chex Mix. We adapted the traditional recipe a few years ago and this is what it has become!! Here is a play by play!

The players: all 3 types of chex (generic works as well as name brand... but the name brand was on an end cap, so I gave them $2 more. You're welcome, Sam Walton.) Cheetos, pepper jack cheez-its, salted peanuts, bagel chips, and normally, we would do potato sticks, but I'm a poop and forgot them! (While I know you can microwave it, I'm a traditionalist. I love the smell of it baking and the crunch it gets. So, I always bake it)

I just use the original chex recipe on the back of the box

3 cups rice chex

3 cups corn chex

I discriminate against Chex. They are NOT all created equal. (I guess the founding fathers didn't like adverbs. Shouldn't that have been "equally"?)

BAGEL CHIPS!! They're hard to find in the grocery store. I have always found them in the deli/bakery (I have zero idea why the CHIPS aren't with the CHIPS??). I put them out on my cutting board and just break them up as I'm adding them with the cereals. I think I did 2-3 cups? 

Cheetos!! Whenever we buy bagged Chex Mix, Lee always hates when he gets the bag after me because all that's left is the pretzels because IF PRETZELS AREN'T SOFT AND DIPPED IN HONEY MUSTARD OR CHEESE SAUCE, THEY ARE A WASTE OF CALORIC INTAKE! So, we use Cheetos for flavor and deliciousness. And, well, CHEETOS!

We also use pepper jack Cheez-its. We like the little bit of somethin' somethin' that it gives the flavor.

About 2 Cups of salted peanuts

Grab your biggest lasagna pan and mix it together with your hands. 

As a kid, I was always taught to put the seasoning in the bottom of the pan and then toss it. I changed it up and melt the butter in the microwave and mix the rest of the seasoning in the measuring cup and then pour it over the top. It was much less stressful being worried about the seasoning getting on every piece of the glorious mix. (Yes, Chex Mix stresses me)

Also, put a sheet pan under the lasagna pan. This stuff bakes at 250 for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. I used to try to stir it inside the oven without a sheet pan. By the end of it, I had tons of cereal smoking and charred in the bottom of the oven. Now, I take it out of the oven and set it on top of the stove and stir it (Closing the oven to keep the temperature up). And the sheet pan catches any runaways. It has saved a TON of mess. 

Store it in an airtight container! If I was going to add potato sticks, I would probably do around 2 cups! Use your hand to hold the chex in while you're stirring. This is the hardest part of it all! (That, and trying to not eat it all in one sitting...)
This stuff is seriously addictive!! Merry Christmas!!