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!!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Risotto, Cordon Bleu, and Other Yummies

Let me be straight on this: I am not some majestic cook. 80% of the time, I am just reading a recipe and adapting it (Or just executing it exactly). Truth is, for me, the heart of the home has ALWAYS been in the kitchen. As a kid, my mom cooked most nights. She worked, as did my dad, and most of the time, the meals were simple and not complex, but they instilled the importance of family dinners to me.

This week, I have posted a few dinners that people requested recipes for, so here they are!  (And a few nights, I painted until well into dinner time and we got take out. Chipotle, your app may be one of my top 3 things about living here.)

Chicken Cordon Bleu
I had a recipe for this somewhere years ago, and couldn't find it when I went to cook it, so here's what I did:

chicken breasts
deli ham (not flavored)
swiss cheese
butter, melted
seasoned bread crumbs

1. pound the chicken breasts thin, but not torn (I put them between plastic wrap or plastic cutting boards.)
2. salt and pepper both sides (A must for ALL chicken dishes)
3. Put 2 slices of deli ham and two slices of swiss cheese on each chicken breast (I spread them out, instead of stacking)
4. Tightly roll each chicken  breast
5. Holding the roll closed, dip the roll in melted butter, being sure to coat it all
6. Roll in bread crumbs
7. Place in a baking dish, seam side down. 
8. Pour the remaining melted butter in the dish (but not over the chicken)
Bake at 350 for 40 minutes

We typically use this as a side dish. Feel free to double it for a main course

2 T butter, divided
diced onion, about 1/4 c.
3/4 c. arborio rice
2 1/2 c. of chicken broth
1/2 c. parmesan

1. Warm chicken broth to warm, not hot.
2. Melt 1 T butter in a saucepan and sauté onion until soft.
3. Pour in the rice and coat and stir frequently to let it soak up the flavors
4. Gradually add in the chicken broth, stirring often (I normally do 1 cup'ish at at time) until liquid is absorbed.
5. Add 1T of butter until melted
6. Add Parmesan until melted

Feel free to use other cheeses, too. A buffalo chicken and cheddar risotto is amazing. But this is the base.

My Favorite Broccoli
Broccoli (My favorite is the baby florets from the frozen section in the blue bag)
Chicken broth
Italian seasoning
parmesan cheese

1. Put broccoli and a small amount of chicken broth in a skillet. (Let the broth cover the bottom, but not swimming) Cover
2. Steam for 8-10'ish minutes
3. Using the lid as a strainer, drain the chicken broth off.
4. On a different burner, sprinkle on the Italian seasoning and a light sprinkle of parmesan. Cover for 1-2 minutes.

Smothered Pork chops
This is a Pioneer Woman recipe and one of our favorite comfort foods. We used regular sized pork chops and just adjusted accordingly. Also, when making the rue, I used the seasoned flour from dredging. (One of my greatest decisions)

Smashed potatoes
Red potatoes
garlic powder
lots of butter

1. Wash your potatoes
2. Put them in a pot of very salted water. Boil until fork tender
3. Using a potato masher, mash (skin and all) using more salt, garlic powder, milk and butter. Adjust seasonings accordingly

Oven Roasted Cauliflower
Head of cauliflower
olive oil
garlic powder

1. cut cauliflower into small florets
2. drizzle a healthy coating of olive oil
3. sprinkle on the seasonings
4. Roast at 400 for 20'ish minutes

Summer Capri's Pasta
I typically use whatever pasta I can find in the whole wheat variety (Which normally means penne). I've also used turkey Italian sausage to cut some of the fats before.

(This is recipe #5 on the page)

This gal writes Bible studies that are aimed at having small group discussions with food. So, she includes awesome recipes with each week of study. Her studies are as awesome as her food. Love her!

Here are a few of our favorites! Message me with any questions!! Have fun and give your littles jobs; they'll be more likely to eat the veggies if they helped! Happy cooking!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Truth.

Blog readers, forgive me for I have sinned. I have told many lies to many people in regards to "How are you?". Not because I have wanted to lie. Or because I was trying to be deceptive. Or because I was trying to give off the persona of everything being sunshines and butterflies. But, because most days, I seriously have NO idea how I am. And because I have been ashamed by how I actually AM.

The truth is that this has been the most TRYING and DIFFICULT time of my life. It has tried my faith, my marriage, my personal sense of being. The truth is, since November, I have questioned God's calling, my husband's love for me, my purpose (and if I even HAD one). The truth is, there were times where I considered leaving my marriage and returning to Summersville because, there, I KNEW life. I KNEW people, I KNEW ministry. (Y'all, I am not lying when I tell you that this blog post is messy.) The truth is, I have never been so barren, so hurt, so bitter... but man, have I never been more aware.

Thursdays have lovingly been coined "crazy Thursday".  My new job is M-W. On Thursdays, I was too alone with my thoughts. Y'all, I lost it. Sweet Lee and some amazing friends and my momma and daddy talked me off the ledge more than a few times, but I'm pretty sure they questioned my sanity. I heard words come out of my mouth and part of me was thinking "You DON'T think that! Why are you saying that?!" and the other part of me was saying "What is there to lose?!"

The problem is, that this move wasn't anything we sought out. God spoke obviously, boldly, and wouldn't take any "no's". I have read the Bible. I wasn't going to be a Jonah. So, we went. But the thing was, I was leaving everything that had defined my adulthood. The amount I loved my job as a Spanish teacher at Nicholas County High School was kind of sad. I LOVED my job. I loved my students, my coworkers, my routine... (I never liked getting up early. That will never change.) I loved our church and our church family. I loved our friends and being close to both sets of our parents. Now, we are living in a 1 bedroom apartment with all of us and both dogs, I'm a "teaching assistant", no one knew who I was, heck, I had to use the GPS to find the grocery store.

I felt purposeless. In Summersville, I had taken on TOO many jobs and here, I was just twiddling my thumbs. A song that I've heard on the radio began playing in my mind "empty me of me so I can be filled with You." I began to realize how much my purpose had been built on my comfort. I knew my students and our youth kids. They knew me. I knew my coworkers, and my friends, and my church... But it was time to put our words into action. Too often we have spoken about "getting out of our comfort zones" and "being obedient to what God has called you to", but until 5 months ago, that meant starting a new Bible study. Or talking to a friend. It had never meant uprooting my family, moving (not into a house), into a town where I was constantly lost and uncomfortable, where I would be very sick for my first month of work... It never meant that. Until it did.

Then, people starting asking me hard questions. One noted one was from one of my favorite people in the world (She had no idea when she got her counseling degree that she would talk her crazy friend through every Thursday for the near future) When I told her "I'm thinking I may just walk away and come back home." She said "Have you prayed about that? Do you feel that's what God's calling you to?" No. I hadn't. I didn't care. I wanted to be home. I wanted my house, my job... But that question made me realize how far I had let the bitterness go. I was so blue that I was sleeping in and not taking care of my physical side nor my spiritual side. I would sleep as late as possible, bite everyone's head off, go to work and fantasize about being back at NCHS, come home (in an incredibly chipper mood, as you could guess), and fight with Lee because he was an easy target of my frustration.

*Side note* Lee and I have made a pointed decision to never argue in front of our kids. Which is really difficult in "760 sq feet of fun". We would "Whisper fight". We would claim sore throats and sit an inch from each other to voice our frustrations with one another. It's funny now. *

A week later, I texted a few close people and said, "I'm going to say this because I'm having a good, clear thinking day: I wonder how much of God's plan for me is emptying myself of me. Maybe I've made being known and knowing things a false god in my life. Maybe my purpose has had too much emphasis and has wrapped myself up into one prideful being."

Maybe it isn't about me. And by "maybe" I mean it isn't. Our constant egocentrism suddenly changes the Gospel to be ME centered and not centered on Christ. My constant need to beg God "What's my purpose?! What do you want from me here?! Why did you make us leave?!" was just me saying "FOR THE LOVE WOULD YOU MAKE THIS ABOUT ME!" And what I finally heard was "But it isn't about you. You've always said that it's about Me. This is where the rubber meets the road."

I started doing a Bible study called "Missing Pieces" by Jennifer Rothschild. She asked a few tough questions on the first day:

  • Have you ever felt a lack of compassion from God?
  • How do you feel he should have reacted to your situation?
Hit in the gut.

I remember a book Lee and I read a few years ago stated, "What if marriage wasn't ever intended to make you HAPPY but to make you HOLY?" It isn't about me. Oh, how I want it to be. Oh, how I want for the stars to align and for everything to be roses and sunshines, but Jesus said to "take up your cross" and crosses were never beautiful nor easy nor pleasant. But they're necessary.

I am still not sure exactly WHY God has called us here. But we know that He has. We know that His Word never falls void. We know that He is faithful. We talk and sing about Him being "The Rock of Ages" and I find so much comfort in knowing that there is nothing new under the moon to Him.

I also know that, as Dr. Swindoll stated:
"It [my attitude] is more important than appearance, than giftedness, and skill. It will make or break a church, a company, a home. The remarkable thing is that we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it."

I am beginning to know that I am called to have an attitude like Christ's, therefore causing me to ask better questions. Instead of "Why am I here?" I say "I'm here. How can I love? How can I let someone see You in me today?" I have found a new love in Lee. Not the giddy school girl type of thing (Don't get my wrong... I still swear he is the most handsome thing I've ever laid my eyes on), but the kind of love that has seen me act in a way so different than the woman he married and the kind of love that has always been kind and gentle and quickly accepted my apology for the mean and awful things I said in a fit. The kind of love where he has loved me as Christ has loved the church. The kind of love that has been in the trenches together. The kind of love on a 2 man team with a Coach that we wonder "what in the world is He doing?" but together, we have learned to trust and lean on both God and each other. It has gotten so much more.

By God's grace for a few less crazy Thursdays, and a soon closing date (And probably a few more trips to Target to buy important things like bleach), and I can stop lying. For now, I am living as an empty vessel and ready to be filled.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Family Dinner

As a kid growing up, we ate dinners together. I can't think of many nights where we didn't. My mom has always been an excellent cook, but most of the time, these meals were never anything complicated or fancy. We had lots of quick meals that this picky eater would eat. (Hard to fathom that I used to be picky.) My mom worked, dad was bivocational (a English teacher and a pastor), Travis played soccer, I cheered and was in gymnastics. Things were busy, but we ate dinner. (Mom recalls many meals eaten in the car, but honestly, I remember none) I remember some nights of dinner being reheated and hanging out while the one who was out ate dinner. It was important and a priority, and we knew it.

When I taught high school, I would discuss this with my classes. In a class of 30, I was feeling great if I had 5 kids that said that they ate dinner as a family at least 3 days a week.

Recently, many studies have emerged around the importance of this lost tradition. They point to higher ACT scores, lower rates of teen pregnancy, lower obesity rates, and lower incidence of teen drug use. All of that with one meal. 

People often wonder what has happened to society. How could it be so grossly misled? How could we appear to be making less intelligent decisions as a whole? I'm going to go out on a limb and say that, in most cases, it can be connected to the breakdown of the family. There seems to be no check in and time to talk. When we spend our days at work and school, come home and turn on electronics, eat dinner separately, bathe, bed, repeat, we become strangers to those who share our name and our roof. Eventually, you don't know what happened in their day. You don't know what kids got in trouble (and maybe it's yours who talked too much during circle time and had to move their clothes pin just a few days at a new school. Theoretically.). You also aren't able to find out food likes and dislikes (apparently Nina has recently developed a strong dislike for cooked carrots. She said it makes her stomach turn thinking about it. It makes my stomach turn thinking about the 15 minute meltdown over one bite).

We have found that the #1 component in arguments goes down to unmet and uncommunicated expectations. Luckily, Lee grew up in a family where meals as a family were just as important. So, now that we have a family, we have continued this every evening activity. We try to never miss it.

 If this is something you don't do (or have never done), here are some good rules to go by: 
1) No phones. This includes mom and dad. And iPads. (Sorry YouTube Kids)
2) No tv
3) Everyone stays seated (something we have to remind a certain 5 year old every few minutes some nights)
4) TALK - If you're not sure where to start, do "high/lows". Go around the table and everyone talks about their best part of the day and the worst part. It will get conversation rolling.
5) I am not a short order cook. Everyone gets input on our weekly menu when I make it on the weekend. Yes and no votes get considered then. Nina always gets at least one meal that is 100% her choice. On dinner night, it is what it is. If there is something I anticipate Nina not liking (Brooks will eat everything), I let her help cook it and/or pick it out at the store. 9/10 times, she will eat whatever she can take pride in. And, if not, you still have to try one bite of everything. (No hateful comments on this. I've read the blogs. I'm doubting I will mess up my kid by her having to eat a few bites of a less than desirable vegetable. Lee and I were both kids who made harsh judgements on foods long before we ever tasted them to later find them delicious.) (Here's looking at you, broccoli.)

Try it. If it feels awkward, fake it til you make it. Try it 1 night a week for a month, then increase it to 2 nights. Let your goal be 5 nights a week and see what happens. 

We might not be able to change the world, but we can change 1 habit of our family. Start with this small change and big things will happen. 

Eat and enjoy with those you love the most. (And maybe promise ice cream to those who do)