Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Simple Things...


As we muddle through what is, for most, the busiest week of the calendar year, I am reminded to take time to enjoy the things that are here but for a moment. Lying in bed this morning, soaking up those last few, precious seconds in the warmth and comfort of my self-made cocoon, I felt a small, warm hand pat my face. "I love you, mommy," were the precious words that I heard as I reached out to pull her little body close to mine. Something about the way she looks first thing in the morning... the big, red curls, porcelain skin, sharp, brown eyes, smile as big as a Texas sunrise...it all just makes me happy to be alive, and so thankful to be her mom.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Friday Funnies

While listening to a student recite his weekly Scripture passage, I heard these words, "And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he ws of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary, his exposed wife..." Poor Joseph, he sure had a hard way to go. :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Already Gone?

My corner of the world has been dragging a little over the last week. After the intestinal flu hit us, I think I was just completely depleted, and I caught another strain of it (high fever and a chest cold). By Monday, it was clear that I wouldn't be able to recover on my own, and at the urging (make that demand) of my mom, I made the dreaded doctor visit. Bronchitis and the beginnings of an ear infection are the diagnosis they gave, and I have spent the last three days trying to allow the antibiotic to do its work. It's not easy to rest with a closet full of presents to wrap, as well as the other household duties that don't seem to slow down for anything!
Yesterday evening, I raided my bookshelves, looking for something I hadn't yet had time to read, and I found:




I began to read, and didn't stop until I had finished all 178 pages. To be honest, I wasn't totally prepared for what this book would do to my heart and soul. The authors speak with clarity, and the statistics tell the story. Often I have observed children/teens/young adults in our church services and noticed the aloof, detached expressions on some of their faces, which in my mind indicated a complete disconnect from everything that was happening, and now I'm wondering: are they already gone?

Depending on whom you ask, you would get a variety of answers to why kids are leaving the church at a tremendous rate, but according to the statistics, most of these reasons are far from true. It's neither modern worship styles, with a seeker sensitive message and emotion driven music program, nor the traditional, always-done-it-this-way approach that is going to keep our kids. It's authenticity...people believing the Bible (from Genesis to Revelation), living the Bible, and relating the Bible to every other part of life...that is gonna make a difference for them.
Every pastor, Sunday School teacher, youth worker, and parent needs to read this book, and give serious consideration to the facts it presents.

I don't know about you, but I do not want to lose my kids. I want their personal experience of salvation and their relationship with Christ to be so vital and living that they are drawn to the church rather than repelled by it. As a Christian Educator, I am further grounded in the belief that our cause is a Biblical mandate, and am propelled toward finding new ways to establish students, not only in the fundamentals of our faith, but in the relevant connection of that faith to all of life.

If you have read Already Gone, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Always, Always, Always Something For Which To Be Thankful!

It finally caught us...or we caught it...I'm not sure. In any case, the intestinal flu ravaged our family on Thanksgiving weekend. As I lay in my bed, aching from head to toe, making the occasional mad dash to the bathroom, I was tempted to have a gigantic pity party. "Ok, Lord," I was tempted to say (ok, maybe I DID say), "This is the 2nd time I've had the flu in the last 3 months, and both times I have been away from home. You know how much I needed this break, and how much I have been looking forward to it. 70 of my family have traveled hundreds of miles to spend two days shopping, eating, visiting, and laughing till our sides hurt...and this only happens once a year. Now, here I am, stuck in a hotel room...on Black Friday. Oooohhh, that hurts, Lord!"
As I fought these thoughts through the morning, I was gently reminded of my blessings:

  • A sister-in-law who was kind to bring my hungry girls some food from the hotel's continental breakfast...they were the only ones with an appetite.
  • A hotel suite (as opposed to a typical room) that made being cooped up manageable.
  • The most warm, comfortable bed in the world...even with chills that rivaled Arctic breezes, and muscle aches that felt like I had been beaten with a 2x4.
  • A dad who brought Tums, Sprite, Imodium, Saltines, disinfectant spray, and wet wipes...yeah, wet wipes.
  • A husband who drove 4 hours to go home to work and back, and fearlessly entered the sick room to become my caregiver. :)
  • A sweet cousin who took care of my girls so that they could go with the other kids to Sharon Woods to see Santa and the lights.

So, although my list of blessings was a little different this year than last, they are blessings, nonetheless!

Oh, yeah, one word of advice...never eat more 7 layer salad than you would care to see later. It quickly turns into 42 layers...

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving 2010!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

No, it's not an oncoming train...


it's just Christmas! Is that how you begin to feel as you approach the third week in November? Each year tends to evoke different emotions in me regarding the holidays. I absolutely love Christmas, the sights, the smells, the colors, the REASON, but the busyness of it all can be so overwhelming! There are so many variables that play into the way each of us functions this time of year: the amount of family gatherings or the miles we travel, financial situations, ages of children in the house, traumatic life situations, etc. There is definitely not a "one-size-fits-all" solution to the frustrations that December can bring, but a little extra organization and lots of communication can sure help things along!
Be organized - My personality does not naturally lend itself to organization, so if it is to be done, it must be intentional and motivated. During the final weeks before Christmas, your mailbox will be hit with a gazillion ads and discounts, some of which can save lots of $, and there is nothing worse (for a bargain hunter) than to hop in the car for a quick shopping trip only to realize that you have misplaced a high value department store coupon. My solution is to keep a three-ring binder specifically for Christmas shopping and planning. Insert several pocket pages, and you have yourself a nice place for receipts, coupons, and lists, and a December calendar page marked with the dates, times, and places of all parties, plays, dinners, and gatherings. If you mix Christmas stuff in with the rest of your coupons, bills, receipts, and lists, this will not fulfill its purpose, and you’ll still be looking for that $10 off of $25 coupon that you just know you had in your hands 24 hours ago.
Communicate effectively - There is no better time than this week to take a date with your spouse and devise your priority list. The ‘most wonderful time of the year’ can quickly become the most dreaded, frustrating, stressful period in the 12 month cycle if we aren’t intentional in planning. Set aside time for the family to enjoy seasonal festivals, concerts, plays, or parties, but leave margins for down time to hang out in the living room around the Christmas tree. That is where the best memories are made.
Set reasonable limits - At a time when families are spread all over the Unites States and beyond, it is difficult to allocate time, or money, for visits to multiple locations. We are at a stage in life where it is important that we see our families, and extended families, but it won’t always be at the ’holidays’. Remember, no matter the time of year, being together is a celebration in itself. If you have to have “Christmas in July” because that’s when it works, then do it!
Make yourself relax - It is really easy to become ‘no fun at all’ when the pressure is on. We tend to think that everything has to be perfect because it only happens once a year, when in fact, no one is going to remember perfection…they will remember the smiles and the laughter, but will probably soon forget the perfect table, the perfect food, the perfectly wrapped gifts, or your perfect outfit. Pause frequently to mentally reflect on the purpose of the season, the beauty of relationships, and the brevity of life. This will put things into perspective.
I'd love to hear your ideas for reducing stress and increasing joy this season!

Monday, November 15, 2010

My First Day As A...

Stay-At-Home-Mom!
Last Friday, I did something that has never been done in my 12.5 years as a teacher...I took the day OFF for absolutely no reason at all. This may seem like such a minor thing, and may not even be blog worthy, but for lack of a more interesting post, here goes.
I will admit, especially in the last couple of years, to feeling a wee bit of jealousy toward the moms who, in a very calm, cool, and collected manner, drop off their children for school and drive off in peace and quiet into the great "unknown" (which is life beyond my four walls). This is not an "I wish I had your life" kind of feeling, but more of a "I would love to try that for a day and see what I could accomplish with six uninterrupted hours!" Any days off for me are days off with the kids or days off with sick kids, so you can imagine that "grass is greener" syndrome that I might at times experience.
Since my job doesn't really accrue vacation time or anything like that, there is always a huge measure of guilt (personal issue, I guess) if I even have to take a sick day. Knowing that someone else has to mess up their day to compensate for me, well, I feel like a loser.
So, here we are now well into the second quarter of the school year, and believe it or not, my kids have perfect attendance. No sickness worthy of a day off and I'm extremely thankful for their good health, but it has also meant that my house has been spiraling out of control for the last 12 weeks. For that sentence to have meaning, you have to understand that I'm not a person who freaks out over surface dust and a little clutter, so for me to say the house was out of control has serious implications. :)
So, I approached my father, aka boss, and told him that I had succumbed to the stresses, pressures, and general overall craziness of my life, and that I must have a day off simply to maintain my sanity. I assured him that this would not be a day of relaxation (took care of the guilt), but a day to reclaim the remains of a little brick ranch in Cridersville, and surprise my husband and kids with a clean house and a hot meal at our very own table. Let the fun begin.
Friday morning dawned sunny and beautiful. I felt energized just knowing that my house would certainly sparkle and shine within just a couple of hours. I awakened the kids, and was met with, "That is SO not fair! Why should you get the day off when we don't?" Ahhh...gotta love em! We rushed around, preparing lunches and piano books in our typical hurried fashion, and made it to school in a TIMELY manner...notice the emphasis. It helped that my bazillion inches of hair only had to make it into a semi ponytail, we wouldn't have to carry with us anything and everything we might need for the day, and my darling two-year-old could stay snuggly wrapped in her blanket sleeper for the 5-minute ride to school!
And for one brief moment, I slipped into the world of the SAHM, opening the doors of the minivan, feeling the escape of boundless energy as 3/4 of the gang exited to begin their school day, and I drove off into the "great unknown", which actually was unknown for a moment...until I heard a little voice from the back seat saying, "I'm hungry, mom." In my world, breakfast is largely unheard of, but seeing the need for an energy boost to be able to maximize this cherished day, we opted for orange juice and a breakfast sandwich. We were off to a great start!
Within moments things began to take shape. I could actually see the large counter area in the kitchen, which is a constant hub for clutter and debris of all kinds. The vegetable garden which had begun to grow on the kitchen floor found its way into the dustpan. The large front window that seemed to have become tinted, once again allowed the beaming rays of sunlight to flow onto the hardwood floors...floors that were beginning to peek out from under the thin layer of dust bunnies that had moved in and made babies.
It wasn't too long before I realized we didn't have a mop (yeah, I'm serious), and Alli and I made a trip to the dollar store for "supplies", which included a Dr. Pepper (for energy, of course). By the end of that little excursion, Alli was ready for a nap, so for the next two hours, right up until we had to pick the kids up from school, I moved furniture, captured those dust bunnies, wiped down cabinets, utilized my new mop, and made dinner...in complete peace and quiet!
As I thought back over my day, I wondered what I would do if this were my life...what would I do the next day, and the next, and the next? Wow.
It was nice to hear the comments as the family came home: "What's for dinner? It sure smells good!" and "The house looks great!" Then my oldest son, who seems to have a way with words these days, iced the cake. He picked up his heavy, Longaberger pottery plate to fill it with food, and not paying attention (another gift of his) almost dropped it. He looked at me with his typical silly grin and said, "Oh, sorry mom, I was thinking it was styrofoam..." Poor kid. Scarred for life.
So that's the story of my day "off". Much needed, much appreciated, and much anticipated again sometime in the future.
I know the dust bunnies will be back in force, things will once again get chaotic and out of control, and we will occasionally eat off of styrofoam. But it felt good to do it different, even for a day, and I'm happy to be back where I belong: right in the middle of 7 little shining faces who eagerly await their next phonics lesson!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Whine...or Shine?

I will be the first to admit it. Some days I just want to whine. I want to talk about how I ache from head to toe. I want to cry on someone's shoulder because I feel too exhausted to hold up my own head. I want to jump all over the kids because of the way they add to my stress when they act irresponsibly. I want to trade places with my husband for one day just to enjoy a quiet ride to work (not to mention that I would change my mind when the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m., or the fact that he can't comb hair and I can't carry hundreds of pounds of rugs, linens, and uniforms). I want to whine to God because it doesn't seem right that women have to have the whole hormone issue.
Every. Single. Month.
I want to whine about crotchety 'ole hypocrites who think that God commissioned them to right all the "wrongs". I want to complain about a list of responsibilities that seem to never allow enough time for prayer, meditation, writing, and being quiet before God. I want to whine because my minivan never stays clean for more than 30 seconds. Oh, and I want to whine because when the weather gets cold, no amount of sticky tack will hold my classroom decorations to the walls, and I am either continuously putting them up or leaving it all to look terrible. I want to whine, whine, whine...
But Jesus says, "Let your light SHINE before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16 TNIV. Is God glorified when I complain about earthly situations or dwell on hurts and frustrations? Is He honored through my grumbling about injustices or inadequacies? Are others edified by my light when it is shadowed by griping about my kids or my husband? Do I draw unbelievers to my light when my face reflects unhappiness or discontent? Hmmm. Just something to think about on a cold, sunny Thursday in November.
Whining = wallowing in selfishness and self pity.
Shining = reflecting the beautiful rays of the Son.

I want to shine!!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Today I'm Feeling Blessed

...sitting here in Columbus at my 13th Christian Educator's Convention! I don't feel old enough to believe that I have been at this for 13 years, but I'm sure I have 12 certificates lying around somewhere as proof that life is flying by rather quickly. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone that participated in our Bbq chicken dinner sale Saturday. It was a big undertaking, but a very lucrative one. and that makes us happy. :) So, just for today its time to relax with my favorite coworkers, knowing that my kids are having a great day with their Grandpa and Grandma Burley, and my husband is hard at work to provide for our needs. God is so very good!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I had to laugh when I saw what was laying in my van window after church on Sunday morning...see if you can put this together...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Just Thankful...

A few weeks ago, some very special people came to Lima on a Sunday morning to thank my parents for the tremendous influence that they had upon their young lives. Like many other GBS students, my parents worked at Main St. mission, dad being the pastor for 3 or 4 years. I won't go into all the details, but I was astounded that a family of 6 siblings, all adults now in their 40's or early 50's would call me to say that wanted to plan a surprise celebration, and then follow through and give their appreciation in such a touching way...



Today is my dad's 39th spiritual birthday, and often I'm reminded of how different my life would be if it weren't for that milestone in his life. He wouldn't have married my mother, which means I wouldn't be here (at least in current genetic form) but more than that, I wouldn't have had the chance to live the wonderful life that God has given me. I don't mean that my life would have been bad, for God gives each of us the opportunity to accept His gift, but it would have been drastically different. Since I love the life He has given me, I'm so thankful that Wednesday, September 29th, 1971 found my dad on his knees at the altar in a humble little country church in Asbury, IL, and I'm thankful that dad accepted the call to preach, which he had received 13 years earlier as a 5-year-old boy. Every choice from that time to this has impacted my life, and I'm grateful for parents who have been sensitive to the gentle leadings of the Holy Spirit.

I hope you often think about the people who were God's instruments in your life, and I hope that we all realize the power of our influence, and understand that our decisions, even the small ones, always reach further than we would ever dream!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

They're Gonna Hate Me For This!!!

While we were on vacation, the kids became frustrated with their little sister. They were trying to play a board game, and she was "interrupting". I took her to the back of the camper, and began to teach her one of those little clap routines that we spent hours with as young girls. When we had one down, we went out to put on a show for the rest of the family. It was really funny, and Allison loved every minute of it. Don't you know, the boys all the sudden became very interested in our "girl fun", and pretty soon they were doing it, too. Male intensity cracks me up...I thought they were going to bloody each other's hands in the process! I couldn't post this on the family blog because they would absolutely kill me if they knew the world was watching...too much baby fat showing for their liking!

video

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Praise You Because...

Last evening I had the privilege of beginning an 8-part series for our local Women of Worth chapter, and as I write this today, I am still overwhelmed by the intense love of the Father for his "girls"! David spoke with such confidence in Psalm 139:14 (NIV) when he said, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
So many of our frustrations and problems are rooted in the fact that we fail to remember Who created us, and how much we are loved by Him! We strive to live up to the expectations of a variety of people (some of whom would never be pleased with us anyway), and we fall short. Or we measure our worth by the airbrushed, embellished people and possessions that society deems valuable, and that unrealistic picture overwhelmes us with feelings of insufficiency. Maybe we too often peer over the fence into someone else's world, which seems so much more glamorous and exciting, and our current position in life seems pale and drab in comparison. Whatever the reason, too many women are feeling defeated and unfulfilled.
So today I feel God is saying to me, "I know every detail of your DNA. I know your strengths, your weaknesses, your desires, your fears, your failures, your abilities, your inferiorities, and even your dreams. I put them all within you, and I called it good. Please accept yourself. Learn to love the person that I love. Every bit of her. Instead of spending your time working to make yourself more acceptable to other people, study Who I am and live to please me. I am gracious, merciful, and patient, and I long for you to experience genuine happiness and fulfillment in Me. My plan for you began before you took your first breath, and will not end until after you breathe your last. I love you, and I will take good care of you. Until next time..."
So, with David I am saying, "Your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

Friday, September 17, 2010

News Flash...

Well, the big man of the house has decided it's time to...drum roll, please....lose some weight. He said that being closer to 400 lbs. than 300 is a little unnerving. I wouldn't know, thank goodness.

Now, the only impact this has had on me so far is that he decided to do it the very night I had devised an evil plan for him to escape to Dairy Queen (after the kids were in bed, of course) to get us each a Blizzard. Wouldn't you know. Anyway, he sweetly told me that he would get me a Blizzard, but since I find it really hard to sin by myself, I declined. We remain Blizzardless to this moment.

In thinking about the whole issue of weight loss, I am amazed by the difference in the way each gender approaches the issue. If I were going on a diet, for instance, I would probably choose a point in the not too distant future, but not right at this moment, to begin the effort. This would provide some time to mentally prepare, enjoy some forbidden "fruits", and stock my fridge with acceptable, palatable, or even just tolerable foods. I'm guessing most women would do the same.

Not a man, however. A man says, "Hey, I'm going on a diet. Like now." And from then on, every decision that involves the digestive system is made with the goal in sight. Funny.

So, here's to my hubby and his challenge. I know he can do it. And I'm planning, February 31st, 2011, to join him in this effort. :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Over the last couple of years, I have felt a little less than patriotic. I guess our current political situation has clouded my emotions a bit, and I need to refocus on the great people who have fought and died for our freedoms. Anyway, one thing for which I am constantly grateful is the fact that in this great country we are allowed to educate our children in the way we feel is best for them, both spiritually and academically. We don't all have the same convictions on the issue, and that is fine. We are, as families, individually responsible for doing what God has asked us to do, and He will require what He has asked. So, at this point in our lives, we are blessed to be a part of a Christian day school. We are all fulfilled in this, and clear that it is God's will for us. Thank goodness He isn't asking me to homeschool...some of you are great at that, but I'm plenty happy to have Mrs. Pouzar doing the honors for my kids! :)
So, again this year, I am teaching kindergarten/preschool three days a week, and co-teaching in the Upper Level classroom on Tuesday and Thursday. It definitely keeps me on my toes...such a big difference in age, curriculum level, and maturity! It is working rather well, though, and I am happy to be where God can use me, even if it means I'm never really sure what day it is or where I am supposed to be...at least when I first awake in the morning!
When I first began to teach kindergarten, going down to three days a week and being home the other two, I became a little ansy about those two days "off". I applied with Lima City Schools to be a sub teacher in the elementary (just for the experience of it, I guess), and after spending time on the phone with Ohio's Dept. of Ed. (not exactly the friendliest office on the planet), as well as the Academic Dean from GBS (where I received my Elem. Ed. degree), I was told that I would basically need to aquire an M.Ed. and a state teacher's license before being permitted into Ohio's classrooms, even as a sub. The Dean from GBS put it to me this way, "We did not train you to teach in public education. We trained you to teach in the Christian day school." At 27 years of age, that statement impacted me greatly. Not too long after, we were given the opportunity to attend Liberty, and I was able to choose the degree that most interested me, not feeling pushed toward an M.Ed. just because. I'm thankful for God's direction, and for Him keeping me from some things that could have been a distraction from His plan for my life. So, after lots of rambling, I'm enjoying where He has placed me during the 2010-2011 school year!
I took this pic for Aaron's mom, since she forgot her camera that morning. No one was more thrilled to be in kindergarten than this little guy!

On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I spend my day with this sweet little group. I am having way too much fun teaching them how to read, and sharing with them the wonderful stories of the Bible. They are so eager to learn, and doing so well!


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Reflections...


I am always in awe of the way God knows our desires and how He arranges His best for us in a way that is so far above anything we could have done on our own! Early in the spring, as I anticipated summer vacation, I asked God to help me to find His will for my summer. Although my income is pretty minor, it does make a difference in our monthly budget, and through the years, we have learned to save a cushion for those months. Beyond that, I really enjoy various types of work. I like diversity in routines, and as a person I need time away from home. Some people don't understand that, and that's fine. As long as God, hubby, the kids, and I are ok with it, that's what counts, right? Anyway, the things that were coming to my mind as possibilities were definitely not what God had planned.
In mid-May, a lady at church asked if I would be interested in helping with a home care case for an elderly man who was transitioning from a rehab center. I am always interested in new cases, and this was one that came with perfect timing...literally right at the end of the school year. If you have ever done home care, you understand that you have no idea what kind of a situation you may encounter. For better, or for worse. So, I was a little nervous as I drove the 22 miles from my home to the country home of the patient.
Within less than a minute of arrival, I was completely at ease. I had just entered the home of one of the sweetest elderly couples on the planet! Married for over 70 years, my patient and his wife were hardworking farmers who had been successful because of their diligence and frugality. At 92 and 94 years of age, they were still very much in love, and so full of kindness to the caregivers. We had so much in common with our love for God, family, and friends.
During the month of June, the patient progressed, and he was able to enjoy the next few weeks, but in early August he began to develop some issues. He declined steadily during August, and we wondered when his final day on earth would come. There were about 10 of us working part time, providing him with around the clock care, and each had qualms about being on shift at the time of his death. Hospice was involved all summer, since he was terminal and wished to die at home, and they were a blessing with various aspects of his personal care.
I was on schedule to work the night of August 11th. It was a Wednesday night, and I had a feeling I should skip Prayer Meeting to rest. I didn't know what the night would hold. As I travelled through the countryside toward the patient's home, I specifically remember saying to God, "Please don't let him die on me tonight." There were a couple of reasons why I didn't care to be the one. #1, being a PK, I have been at the bedside of many dying saints, but never with a dead body. Some had struggled greatly during the last few minutes, and I just didn't feel like dealing with the emotion of it. #2, home care is different that working in a facility. In a nursing home, you are surrounded by people 24/7, in the home - if there happens to be anyone else around - they would likely be sleeping during 3rd. shift.
Just as quickly as I breathed that little prayer to God, it was as if He immediately responded, "But what if I want you to be the one?" I felt a sense of calm, and told Him to use me wherever He could.
About 2 hours later, that's exactly what He did. As I sat at the feet of my patient, he drew his last breath. During the next few hours, I was able to help prepare him for the funeral home, hold his grieving widow while she cried, pray with his children and in-law children in the absence of their pastor, help the funeral director with information and pictures, and just be there. They asked me to stay the rest of the shift, and we shuffled around until about 4 a.m. making funeral arrangements, moving medical equipment, etc. After that, we rested for awhile in the living room. Just about daybreak, I opened my eyes just enough to see my patient's widow sitting in her recliner, sobbing in grief. I tried to imagine her pain...his death was not a surprise, but 70 years is a long time...a lot of memories...
So my summer was full of breathtaking sunsets, fresh country air, miles of cornfields, rainbows, sunrises that I didn't know existed (lol), watching the growth of baby calves, and making new friends. Although I know I will never measure up to Lucille, a farmer's wife who at 92 still keeps up a big house, cooks killer meals, and looks fantastic, I hope that I'm able to leave a legacy like the people who I was privileged to know this summer! Here we are, quite matchy in an unplanned sort of way...

(The table behind us is one of the many beautiful pieces my patient made, even during the years in which he was legally blind.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Oh, Baby!

I just ran across some photos from my 13th wedding anniversary...I'm sure you'll be impressed..haha! Our anniversary, which is August 2nd, most often falls during Vacation Bible School. We're used to it, so we just spend the evening at church doing whatever our task entails, and celebrate if and when we have time. This year we were able to get away for a night in Ft. Wayne the Friday previous, and didn't plan to do anything the day of, mostly because I spent the entire day at the church helping with VBS prep, and Greg came to help as quickly as he could get off of work. After VBS, we felt the need to eat dinner, and did the risky thing...took 4 extremely exhausted kids with us to Applebee's to celebrate 13 years of love and happiness. It was a little hard to "feel the luv" at first, because little Alli (who normally wakes up very cheerfully) had fallen asleep on the short drive into Lima. She didn't awake in typical fashion, and cried for at least the first 15 minutes we were in the restaurant. I'm sure most people were wondering why we didn't take our sleepy little family home and put them to bed! Our waiter brought us a special treat "on the house", and it was quite romantic to share a large sundae with our kids...sort of. It ended up being a neat experience with our waiter, who was probably single and in his mid-20's, and wanted to know the secret of our being together, without regret, for 13 years. We were able to share with him that communication, commitment, and our relationship with God were the greatest factors in our happy, fulfilled marriage. He was appreciative of the input, and shared some of his story. I hope we were able to have at least a small impact on his future decisions.
And so, that is the story of Anniversary #13, 2010.






Thursday, September 2, 2010

These Days...

I enjoy blogging. Although my infrequent posts would indicate otherwise, I really do love everything about blogging...sharing family updates, swapping useful information, peeking into the lives of others...love it. Lately I have been too busy living to actually share about it, but I have kept up with your blogs, and felt a connection by seeing what happens in your world.
Since I'm just using a little downtime in my classroom to type this post, I will just share a few simple things of which I was reminded this summer. Hopefully I will be able to expound on them, with pictures, over Labor Day weekend.
  • God is an amazing Friend...He is pleased to give us our desires as long as they are not in conflict with His will.
  • It is not the length of time we have known someone, but the experiences we share together that determine the strength of our bond.
  • Death is so final and can approach so silently. Sobering thought...
  • Children don't need expensive vacations filled with roller coasters or Mickey Mouse to be happy. A campfire under the stars or a makeshift water slide with a hill, a tarp, and a garden hose are enough to provide hours of laughter and fun. Quality and quantity of time...both are so vital.
  • A house is just a temporary residence, a place to hang your hat. Sometimes you just have to let go of that security blanket and see what comes next!
  • Nothing is quite as beautiful as watching the church, the Body of Christ, function together in perfect harmony, each playing his own part while getting the job done.
  • Each season of the year brings its own thrills, as well as its own unique challenges. Savor each one, 'cause once it's gone it ain't comin' back!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Food For Thought

The blog has been silent for many reasons lately, but rather than bore you with my litany of endless excuses, I would like to pass along a few words that impacted my day. A 41-year-old education professor from Liberty University was killed in a car wreck early Sunday morning. Her 17-year-old son was also killed, leaving her husband and another son to suffer the tremendous loss. As I read words of remembrance from the university website, I realized what a jewel this professor had been to her church, students, family, and the entire community. Professor Jones was a great lady, and her own words from the faculty website are a testimony to her success as a Christian.

She says,"If I could give give everyone only one piece of advice, it would be the following, 'Greet each day by sliding out of bed and hitting your knees. Tell God how much you love Him and thank Him for everything you can think of. Then give Him your day, energy, passion, desire, and needs. Talk to Him throughout the day. Turn off the radio while you drive and picture Him sitting beside you. Tell Him what is on your mind and ask Him advice. Then wait for the answer. He is always faithful to respond...we often simply assume that He will not. Finally, treat each day with the desire to make your Heavenly Father smile. I like to close my eyes and picture my actions bringing a smile to His face.'"

What practical advice, and yet most of us find it difficult to talk to our Creator like He is our closest friend. Instead, we use our best King James English, take on a fake tone of voice, and recite some overused phrases to try to get the ear of our Saviour! I hope Prof Jones' words touch you as they did me. Happy Tuesday!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Adult Interaction Needed...Kids Are Driving Me Crazy! :)

Like pretty much ever other blogger in my list, I'll begin by apologizing for my lack of recent posts. We are all fairly busy right now, and if you're like me you feel a twinge of guilt every time you turn on the computer...after all, it's summer and every spare moment is to be spent on the kids, right? :)
Speaking of summer and kids, we are currently experiencing mid-summer sibling rivalry at its finest. Mix that in with a little pre-adolescent know-it-all attitude, a toddler whose favorite new word is "Fine!" (you can image the context), and you pretty much have a recipe for disaster. Dealing with it while keeping a "saved and sanctified" attitude at all times is no picnic, either. I now have great appreciation for my parents...sowing and reaping...it's a scary thing. :) So, we are working diligently to mold their little attitudes and actions into something respectable and Christ-honoring, knowing that this process will not occur overnight. Sigh.
We trying to do a variety of things with the kids this summer. I am doing a private duty case 20+ hours a week 3rd shift (sanity-saver), working on some things for PCS, doing some research on another project which is both fun and overwhelming, and helping to get our VBS organized, so it isn't like we just have every day as time for a new adventure, but we're trying.
Church camp was wonderful. We were able to stay for the whole thing, except for the day of Dr. Woodworth's funeral, when we made a quick trip home and back the same day. Brenda Hunter and I enjoyed six+ hours of travel together that day, and it was therapeutic to be able to spend time with her for chic chat (same as girl talk, right?). Camp could have lasted another week, and I would have been thrilled. It was a refreshing time!
I am slowly posting pictures on our family blog, so check in from time to time. Hopefully I will have it caught up within the next few days. I'm only like 6 weeks behind. Not so bad. lol
In the meantime, I need to get back to the mound of laundry that I need to fold, and somehow divide chores between the 4 kiddos and keep them moving without fighting for the next few hours. :) Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Deals & Steals

As I mentioned in an earlier post, couponing has become sort of a hobby for me. I guess I shouldn't call it a hobby, because that indicates something that costs money and provides pleasure. My version of couponing (not buying too many things I won't use, etc.) doesn't cost me, but saves big time on the things I ordinarily have to buy.
I have always hated spending money on things like deodorant, diapers, toothpaste, all of those things that are so important but seem to cost so much! I would much rather spend my $ on new clothes, hobby items, or Biggby coffee...seriously. Having 4 kids and a life, though, often dictate the opposite. :)
The cool thing is that I never thought I would see the day where quality and expensive brands, with a little coupon savvy, would be almost free.
That day is here, and I'm taking advantage of it while it lasts!
I was telling a friend about a deal I had recently found, and she asked why I wasn't posting them on this blog. I guess I just figured there are about a bazillion couponing blogs out there, and if someone wants to find a deal they have all sorts of outlets for learning. This week, though, there are several awesome bargains which some of you may find very valuable.
Rite Aid - I haven't ever really been a huge fan of this store, basically because I'm not into rebates. I'm not good with making sure all of the paperwork is in on time, and tracking my rewards. Some people can do it, not me. At least I'm not into making myself. Recently, though, they have begun an UP Rewards program, which is similar to CVS Extra Bucks. There is always a limit of one per transaction, but you can do multiple transactions and roll them over. Most deodorant sales mean little to me because Greg uses the same brand, and it is an expensive one...Old Spice Red Zone. There are cheaper Old Spice deodorants, but this one works for him, and smelling good is worth whatever $ you must pay. :) His deodorant is about $3.77 or more at WalMart. Last night I assembled my P&G coupons, and went to Rite Aid for their Old Spice sale. I ended up spending just over $10, and received $4 back in UP rewards, meaning I can go back and use the $4 on anything I want with no minimum purchase. Here is my deal:


Regular price was over $55. In case you can't see the products clearly, I snagged 4 of the deodorants, 4 body wash, 4 body spray, and 1 Butterfinger (needed a 50 cent filler item to use one of the coupons, so a 50 cent candy bar makes a great filler...lol). By the way, with 9 and 10 year old boys, you can never have too much body wash!

WalGreens - Pampers Wipes on sale 2/$5, two $2 off coupons from P&G, my total purchase was $1.33 (including tax).


CVS - I usually get great deals with the CVS Extra Bucks program, but this particular trip was mostly made up of clearance deals. I went in for a 50 cent BAN deodorant, and came out with this:

4 tubes Colgate Total Whitening toothpaste, 1 Ban Deodorant, 1 Huggies body wash, 3 tubes Oragel, 3-2 pks. of Nuby pacifiers, 2 pks. Pedialyte strips, 2-4 pks. Pedialyte singles, 2 Pedialyte 32 oz., 2 pkgs. GoodNights Pull Ups (Huggies), 3 pkg. Playschool hand wipes, 1 pkg. cotton cloths moist wipes, and 2 bottles Aveeno Baby Wash for sensitive skin. The funny thing is that these items originally ranged in price from $1.49 each (the hand wipes) to $13.99 (Good Nights) with most items falling at around $5 - $6 bucks a piece. My total was right at $35 plus I received $2 extra bucks. That may still seem like a lot of money to you, but if you are out of Pedialyte when the kids get sick 75% off sales aren't to be found! These items can be useful in baby shower gifts, or in our case my own kids or my neices and nephew.
One more deal to pass along...I know most of us either hate or refuse to wear pantyhose, but in my case they are a necessity some of the time. And with my build, support is a necessity, as well. :) I religiously wear one of the better labels from No Nonsense...Great Shapes, Sheer Endurance, or something like that. They run $4.99 a piece regular price at Meijer, Walmart, etc. I try to always have a good supply because paying that price is killer, especially when some of them are known to explode after just one wear...haha. Meijer and WalGreens run bogo specials every couple of months, and at the last WalGreens bogo sale I was floored to see that the manufacturer had put out double packs...so even at regular price I was already getting one free. Add the bogo to the deal, and I purchased 78 bucks worth of pantyhose for like $17. Amazing. This week Walgreens is doing the bogo sale again, and one of my good bargain buddies alerted me that they still have some double packs. I have tons from the first sale, so I will probably leave the bargain to other needy souls! If you like good pantyhose at an awesome price, head to Walgreens soon.
Since I don't have my teaching income in the summer (it's not a huge income obviously, but it does help cover household necessities), I have created a huge stock in my laundry room. It looks like a very unorganized, small scale, Sam's Club. My goal this week is to reorganize and free up cabinets to simply house my almost free deals, thus avoiding those last-minute, unplanned, non-coupon purchases which tend to eat our $! By the way, a trip to WalMart is completely rare for us anymore. And I love it! Woo Hoo!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Somehow I think I am above using spell check, but I have noticed that I'm either gonna have to quit blogging when tired or in a hurry (which is how I spend most of my life) or develop a close relationship with that little ABC icon at the top of my screen. I apologize to those of you who cannot stand to read the blog of a teacher who seemingly cannot spell correctly. I will attempt to do better in the future. Now, has anyone made the coffee? This week has me dragging! :)

"My Valentine"

...not only are those words the title to one of my favorite Brickman songs, they also describe a very special person.
During the summer of 1993, while wearing a very bright green dress (really has nothing to do with it, but the dress was way too bright to be forgotten!), I fell in "love" with an enormously tall bass singer from Hobe Sound Bible College. Unfortunately, he was not ready to date a high school girl from the Midwest, so our brief whatever-it-was became a memory only to be revived for a good laugh in later years.
In the spring of 1996, the HSBC boy became reacquainted with green dress GBS girl, and the rest is history.
Occasionally, I will reminisce on the early days, realizing once again that I really had no idea what true love was all about. And that's probably a good thing. Did you realize that "true love" isn't really all that glamorous? Occasionally, through social networking sites, I will take a peek into the lives of younger types who are in and out of relationships like sand through an hourglass, and it is all there...the drama, suspense, hype, tears, smiles, romance, love songs, flowers, you name it. There is so much talk about "true love" and "forever yours", and all of those words with enduring value. Then I laugh and think to myself, "If you only knew!", hoping one day they really will know and will remain virtuous until that day so that they can live without regret.
So, back to my point, if in those early days we had really known what true love was and what it required, we may not have been quite so eager to sign on the dotted line. Don't take me wrong...no regrets here, just an observation.
Now it has been almost 13 years. We have been through births, miscarriage, major back surgery, deaths in the family, home purchases, sickness of various kinds, spiritual battles, many important decisions, and each of those things has strengthened the love interest that began as a tiny seed in 1996.
I clearly remember our 7th anniversary, and the meaning it held for me. Most divorces happen before the 7th year of marriage, so that became kind of a milestone for me. Not that divorce was ever an option for us (nor had we ever been at the point where we felt like we needed an option), but we weren't so naive as to think that it never happens.
Then came year #10. I always thought that people were pretty old when they reached the 10th anniversary, but by the time it rolled around, I had changed my mind. :)
Now we are approaching #13. I thank God continuously for the incredible husband and father He has placed in my life. This blog could not hold all of the wonderful things that I could say, so I'll not even try.
I'll just wrap up with this...I love you, Greg, and I hope that you had a wonderful Valentine's Day!



***This post is old, and remained unfinished, but I thought I should put it up anyway, cause I wanted to tell my man how much I love him! If you find it mushy or disgusting, please avoid throwing up on your computer keyboard, reach for a Tum, and move on...
By the way, I did part with the green dress (into which I shall never again fit) just a few months ago. Hope it made someone do the happy dance at the Goodwill store! :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Would You?

Recently I heard someone pose this question, "Would you do something you don't want to do to get an outcome that you desire?" The context in which the question was presented caused it to strike me in a pretty forceful way, and it made for some interesting introspection.

As I mentioned in another post, I am a fairly classic firstborn. Dreaming comes easy for me. I can see end results with an amazing amount of clarity and color. On the other hand, motivation to take the baby steps...well, it's a little slower in coming! Maybe you can relate.

As a college student, there were lots of little things that I just did not want to do. To begin with, I wasn't all that crazy about majoring in elementary education. I was one who chose my college before I chose my major, rather than selecting a field then looking at colleges that had programs within my chosen course of study. Looking back, I see God's hand in all of those decisions, but at the time I found it very frustrating to have to sift through piles of "silly" projects and seemingly endless lectures on subjects that really wouldn't impact my future in a real practical way...or so I thought. I detested the time spent making file folder games for preschoolers and notebooks full of worksheets for elementary students...little did I know. :)

Really, on a much larger scale, I think most women who are ambitious have goals, plans, and objectives for their own lives and for the lives of those over whom they have influence. It's much more complex than just making it to the end of the week or the year, or holding out until the kids are grown, or even until we retire from our chosen professions. There are dreams that we want to see fulfilled. We don't want to just make it through life, we want to L*I*V*E* every moment to its maximum potential! Getting from point A to point B, however, can be more difficult than it seems. It requires effort, and lots of it.

If you listen to conversations among women, you may hear statements like these:

"You have no idea how much I would love to lose some weight!"

"Wow...what I wouldn't give to be able to drive a car like that!"

"I sure wish my daughter could play the piano."

"Wouldn't it be nice to come home to a clean house?"

"I wish my kids had more interest in spiritual things."

"It just seems like we never have enough money."

"She's lucky that she has such a great husband."

...and you could keep adding to this list.

The sad thing is that many women will only continue to wish because the outcome never becomes real enough to propel them into action. As much as a momma of four likes to think, a clean house is not a goal that cannot be reached. It requires discipline, consistency, and more discipline, but it can be done. Nice husbands are a blessing, but we can help to make our husbands nicer by being better wives. It's not always easy to treat a pig like a king (my husband isn't a pig, but some are, I've heard), but the outcome just might be worth the effort! We can begin to shed excess weight by controlling our eating impulses and exercising our muscles. Not easy, but worth it. Children can learn to play musical instruments when their parents are willing to sacrifice to pay for lessons and then require the necessary practice. Money can be more abundant when one is willing to work hard to acquire it, and then use it wisely. Parents can raise spiritually minded children when they love God, make their home a place for His presence, speak highly of the church and its people, train the children in His ways, and involve them in cheerful acts of service (cheerful is a key word here).

Inside each of us resides a God-given mechanism that determines our actions and responses in every situation we encounter. It is our will. God doesn't want puppet servants, He wants people who actively choose to follow Him and seek to make good decisions, so He created us to have a choice. This same inner force is what will either help us reach our dreams or leave us continuing to wish.

So, here is my question for you...Are you willing to do something you don't want to do in order to achieve an outcome that you really desire? If you are, please leave a comment and share your experience. You may be an encouragement to someone else who is walking in your shoes!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's a Date!

...those are words I love to hear! Now that I'm "all grown up", birthdays aren't quite what they used to be, and I never have an answer for the question "What do you want for your birthday?" I really do feel sorry for my husband because I have a way of making it difficult...not to mention that my birthday and Mother's Day were two days apart this year (and I didn't even bother to remind him that it was National Teacher's Week and that I am his daughter's teacher...lol)!
Back to the "all grown up" stuff, these days I would rather have experiences than things (don't get me wrong, I love 'things'...it's just that most of the things I love are things the whole family would enjoy, not something personal), and so I asked him to take me to hear one of my favorite artists as my birthday gift.
We were introduced to Jim Brickman's music in the mid-1990's (when some mellow "luv" songs were mandatory background music for our dates), and Jim's music has followed us through almost 13 years of marriage, four kids, and the joys and struggles of life.
I'm amazed by the amount of people that have never even heard of Jim Brickman! His mellow piano arrangements have soothed my nerves on many occasions, and the vocalists that he features on his songs are awesome. He has provided the music for this blog since its beginning. Check him out at jimbrickman.com.


There was a strict "no camera" policy at the show, so I was unable to get any pics of Brickman at the piano, but we did participate in a VIP Meet & Greet at the end.


Thanks, Greg, for a great evening!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Congratulations!

One thing that I absolutely love about my job is watching children grow into responsible, mature young adults. There are few things more satisfying to me than watching a young person set a goal and work like crazy to reach the goal. In our non-traditional classroom setting, a large percentage of the students are focused and responsible. They learn from a young age that their success is not dependant upon the teacher or others in the classroom. They use their ability to read and discover information that is presented to them in a written format, and the sky really becomes the limit. They become confident and eager to meet challenges that are placed before them. They are held back by no one.
We have three seniors this year, and two of them are PCS thoroughbreds. These two completed their coursework just before spring break, and have around 28 high school credits each, plus a nice stack of college credits through classes they were able to take at Rhodes State College this year. They did this while helping to put together a spectacular yearbook (it's here and it's cool!), and raise funds for and compete in student convention. I am so proud of them! I think that they would say they surprised themselves in what they were able to accomplish this year. Each of them stretched themselves, and did things that a year ago may not have seemed possible.

Jennifer and I go back a ways...I began to babysit her when she was less than a week old (if my memory serves correctly) and since I wasn't really a "baby" person that was new for me...we developed a real bond during those years, she was the miniature bride at my wedding (sorry about all the bobby pins, Jenn. I know you were scarred for life, but your hair rocked!), and then we were able to spend many days together during her years in school! She is not a quitter. I watched her when there were things that she really didn't have to do, and didn't really enjoy doing, and she stuck with those things. I would say those experiences will serve her well in the future. Congratulations, Jennifer!


I began teaching at the school when Sharree was just four years old. Her mommy was a teacher, so she was one of the little staff kids that really deserves a lifetime service award. :) Although I didn't have her in my class until the seventh grade, or so, I knew her to be a thorough student, who always wanted to do nothing less than her best. Through the years that we have had a closer relationship, Sharree has blossomed in many ways, and she is graduating a year early (even with all the crazy extra stuff she has done!). Like Jennifer, she has not opted for the easy way out, and has given herself to help with many extras. Congratulations, Sharree!

Although we are going to miss the every day presence of these girls in our classroom, we are excited to send them out to be a blessing to others. Our prayer is that they remain spriritually grounded and never lose sight of their goals!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Women Of Faith 2010

God had a special surprise in store for me last weekend. He knew my physical strength was waning, and my emotional resources were running low, so He sent me a little gift...then again, it wasn't so little! My mom and I were able to attend Women of Faith's 2010 conference at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, OH. I have thought about doing a WOF weekend in year's past, but with 4 little ones and a M-F commitment, it just didn't seem like a possibility. This time God didn't give me too much time to think about all the reasons I shouldn't go, and things fell perfectly into place for a much needed break! There is no way I can describe this weekend in a blog post, so I'll just share photos. This event was truly...



Friday's morning and afternoon sessions were rich. Andy Andrews (former homeless teen turned exceptional speaker and author) shared his insights into forgiveness in a powerful way. He has a gift for connection, and the audience was drinking in his wisdom.


Embarrassing security...


Working the crowd...




Oh, how everybody loves Patsy Clairmont! If you need a good laugh, head on over to your Christian bookstore and simply read her book titles! She is an amazing communicator with an amazing story. Every sentence that flowed from her lips was like a valuable treasure that you only wish you could store in your mind!


Friday afternoon, the event coordinator hosted a forum with Andy and Patsy, answering questions from the audience. Very informative and interesting. Loved listening to their unscripted responses.


Although not scheduled to be on this tour, we were so happy to get to meet Lucy Swindoll! I overheard that she shows up at the Columbus event each year. Very cool!


And then there is Lisa Welchel, child TV star turned wife and stay-at-home mom. She still has her little girl TV voice, and we enjoyed her story and the transparency with which she shared.


This is Richard Stearns. He had an extremely successful career in business. By the mid-80's he was president of Parker Brothers. Later, he became vice-president of the Franklin Mint. Following his time there, he became the CEO of Lenox Collections. God began to do something in his heart when he received a call from World Vision. He was asked to become president of the organization, and was vehemently against the idea until God took him through a troubling period of introspection. The result is that he and his wife left their 10 bedroom historic home in N.Y., and he resigned from the large fine china and home furnishing company to follow God's leading and bring His light to impoverished children all over the world. This decision prompted his new book, titled "The Hole in our Gospel". The sobering questions he addresses are, "What does God expect of us?" and "Are you wiling to be open to God's will for your life?" These are questions that typically would be answered with a resounding "Yes!" by all who claim to be Christian, but do our lives reflect that "Yes!"?


Then a special treat. I heard a familiar voice singing my all-time favorite Disney songs, "When You Wish Upon A Star" and "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes". Who couldn't sit and listen to that all day! Sandi Patty has become part of Women of Faith's "Porch", and she spoke about her experiences from her first unsuccessful audition at Disney, to teaching piano to pay her way through Anderson University (she just happened to have two little students whose parents were named Bill and Gloria), becoming a back-up vocalist for the Bill Gaither Trio, marriage and family, heartaches, struggles with weight, and stress induced health issues. Her story was one with which, in some small way, we could all relate. She ended her time with a song of encouragement, "I Am Enough", and then wowed us with her rendition of "We Shall Behold Him".


Signing "We Shall Behold Him" for the deaf. It was beautiful to watch the connection between she and them...they were truly able to worship with her!


This is what the high note looks like...lol.


A mini-dream come true...


Marilyn Meberg and Nicole Johnson leaving the auditorium (they apparently didn't recognize me...haha)...


Patsy Clairmont up close (sorry about the head chop, but she was moving quickly). The next time she came by we tried to stop her for a group pic, and she was plenty willing, but her personal security held tightly to her arm and kept her moving. She started to pull away, but he wasn't going to budge, so giving us her cute little pouty-lip, she apologized and kept going. I was just thrilled to get to be so close in an arena that big!


One of the best things about the weekend is that I was able to spend some quality time with my mom. I mean REAL quality time...the hotel was out of queen beds, so I slept with my mother for the very first time in a very long time...haha! We both love to shop, so even though we only had mere minutes in between sessions, we zipped out to Penneys outlet for a few minutes, swung by Lane Bryant to use a couple of free coupons on some Cacique...oh, yeah...and ate at a delicious little place called Boston's (not Boston Market). Definitely the best pasta I've ever eaten. Oh, and can't forget the late night Graeter's Ice Cream run. Nothin' like going to bed full of Buckeye Blitz in a waffle cone! Did I mention I have a weight problem? lol Thanks, mom, for inviting me along! It was a blast!


Steven Curtis Chapman


Mary Beth Chapman's first ever public speaking experience...excellent content, delivery will come with practice. Steven was thrilled that she was finally emerging to tell the story of their lives and the recent tragedy and loss of their little Maria.




Marilyn Meberg giving a closing challenge...


Sandi Patty, Mandisa, and Lucy singing Happy Birthday for a few in the audience who were celebrating that weekend...


These girls have too much fun!

One of the best things about the conference...an abundance of pink-not that lightish, whitish stuff-happy hot pink and purple!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"But, Lord, I don't like it!"

My intention for this blog was that it would be a place for me to journal my experiences, feelings, and emotions. Once I began to write, I realized that this "open book" might be a little too much, and so I pulled back. After all, I'm a woman, so the feelings and emotions part may be a little overwhelming, right? :) After some thought, I have decided to not worry so much about what others might think, and follow through with my original intentions. So, here it goes.
During the last couple of years, God has been teaching me some powerful lessons. Without getting too personal, I will just summarize some of my struggles and describe how He has allowed me to see a picture of myself and His grace.
Many of you can sympathize with this aspect of my personality, whether it is caused by birth order, the way one was raised, or some other unchangeable circumstance under which one was placed. I am what Kevin Lehman describes as a "discouraged perfectionist". More about that later.
One of the characteristics of a perfectionist is a critical eye. I do not label a critical eye as a negative tendency because, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, attention to detail is a powerfully positive tool. Unfortunately, too many of us have not always operated in complete surrender to the Spirit, and our critical eye has become a source of a disparaging, condescending disposition, a faultfinding temperament, and a "my-way-or-the-highway" attitude. We all know people who exhibit these characteristics, but rarely are we able to see them in ourselves.
In my experience, a strong personality, coupled with a critical eye and lack of spiritual maturity, is a recipe for inner frustration and lack of peace. It is a place I never again wish to visit.
If you have not struggled in this area, you may not understand why someone else would. If you have received freedom from such bondage, you understand the tremendous pressure that has been relieved from your being, and you are enjoying the emancipation that follows. If you are currently operating under a judgemental nature and spirit, with little regard for God's work and leadership in the lives of others, you may underestimate (or even fail to understand) the depths of deception to which Satan has taken you.
Through the process of time that God has allowed me to see a clear portrait of myself, He has also graciously enabled me to accept that some things are simply part of my personality and He is constantly teaching me to channel those negative tendencies into positive attributes. It is a daily choice I must make, and it gets easier each day.
Back to the "discouraged perfectionist". Those who know me well probably laugh when they think of "perfectionist" as a description of "Stephanie". For a long time I didn't understand many things about my own makeup. I rarely have a tidy-enough house, I procrastinate, I am notoriously two minutes late for everything, and my kids sometimes have unkempt hair, long fingernails, and a runny nose. This barely scratches the surface of my imperfections, but it's a start. How that all fit with the typical firstborn/perfectionist philosophy, I hadn't the slightest idea!
When Dr. Lehman's "The First Born Advantage" hit bookshelves, I couldn't wait to read it, because it marketed itself with some of the answers to many questions that I had. I wasn't disappointed...Dr. Lehman introduced me to the "discouraged perfectionist" (whose description I clearly fit), and I have since been able to give attention to some of the areas of my life that were troubling me, and throw under the bus some of the things Satan had been using to discourage or distract me. Typically, my mind has operated in a very black and white (nothing to do with race) manner. I like definite lines. Grey areas are nerve wracking to me. Give me boundaries, lists, written goals, etc......yes, I'm very firstborn! How difficult it was for me to realize that God did not make everyone like He made the typical firstborn (or functional firstborn)! He created each of us differently, with personalities that would serve us well in our particular area of ministry or vocation. He expects different things of different individuals. These differences are visible in our decision making, our reactions, our personal motivation, and yes, our level of spiritual growth (especially as seen with the human eye).
So much of my discontent had roots in the idea that God expected out of everyone else exactly what He expected out of me (wow...isn't this a pretty common occurrence!), and that especially if I felt someone was making a ridiculous decision or even violating a Biblical principle, I could rightly pass judgement upon their choices, whether verbally to others (in a "Godly" manner, of course), or just simply in my own heart. How easy it is to rationalize these small, yet sinful manifestations in our lives!
It is very clear to me that since His revelation of these issues in my life, God has placed specific tests in my way. Some I have passed, some I have failed miserably. This is where the "But, Lord, I don't like it!" comes in. I know He is challenging me, making sure that I am conforming to His likeness, and it isn't always the most pleasant of experiences.
It is amazing to me that within the last year I have faced more personal criticism, to my knowledge, than in any other year. God knows I hate negative criticism, and I have grown to hate it more because it is the enemy of my own soul.
The most recent round came to my attention early on a recent Sunday morning with a phone call from a pastor's wife who is my friend, and thought it wise to let me know what the rumor mill was spreading about me and my family. Quite honestly, I was surprised that little 'ole me would even be interesting enough for a conversation, but I guess with a little embellishment, I made a good story...lol. I was kind of sad, not that I really care about what they said...my life is pretty much an open book and I live to please God and His Word as it applies to my life, but my sadness was more toward those involved. Knowing that a critical eye can so easily lead to a critical spirit, and then on into conversations that aren't even truthful, I wish I could somehow convey to young Christians the danger of traveling that path. I'm thankful that God allowed me, sooner than later, to realize my natural tendencies and begin to put a blinder on that critical eye before it progressed to its natural end.
Maybe you can relate to parts or all of this post. I would encourage you to immediately begin asking God to show you a picture of your heart as He sees it. Remove yourself from situations and people that heighten tendencies toward this behavior. Strive to see others as God sees all of us...through eyes of mercy, grace, and unbelievable love!