Monday, March 25, 2013

Inner Beauty

I'm sure this has happened to you.  You meet someone new and you can't help but notice how physically attractive the person is. Then, it happens--you get to know them and the attractive person you first saw disappears because of the person's bad attitude.  I remember, as a child, meeting a boy who was not attractive; in fact, many in today's society would say he was ugly. I got to know this boy and he had such a great attitude that it radiated from him. When I saw him I saw an attractive person. It really is what's on the inside that matters.

I have been blessed with three amazing kids.  I have been especially blessed with a 6-year-old who has the biggest heart and the wisest little brain I think I've ever come across. He is always saying things that you don't expect kids to say.  He thinks about things and he observes things.  Songs make him cry and he hates seeing others sad or suffering. Once, while eating lunch in McDonald's, a little girl was crying because she dropped her fries on the floor. I watched my then 5-year-old watch this little girl cry.  I saw him look down at his fries, back up at her, and then at me.  He said, (in that little high pitched, Logan voice), "Can I give her my fries?  It would make her happy." I watched him gather up his fries and carry them to the little girl.  I watched the mother's shocked expression as she watched Logan gladly hand over his own fries to make her daughter happy.

Today was no different.  We were waiting for Alex to finish his therapies when a woman came in wearing leggings, boots, a really nice top and a scarf with pretty jewelry.  Her hair was perfect (even though it's extremely windy out) and her make up was perfect.  She was pretty. The woman walked in with four children and was immediately rude and impatient with the people in the office.  She was irritated at her children and snapped at them constantly.  She would sigh and roll her eyes.  She looked so pretty when she first walked in and then, in a matter of minutes, that beauty factor nearly disappeared because of her attitude.  Logan watched her for a while and then, in his little Logan voice, said, "She looks pretty, but her inside need some work." Wow.  How true is that?  I sat there listening to the woman sigh and snap at her children and I thought about how we always focus on our outward appearance and sometimes our inner appearance is what needs the most work. People always say, "It's what's inside that counts."  How true that statement is.

Today's incident reminded me of a bible verse that I learned as a child. "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit."  1 Peter 3:3-4a

I am thankful for this reminder that it is what's on the inside that really matters.
And thankful that, while we live in a society that praises outer beauty, my children still know that there are more important things than how you look in this life.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Human Nature

It seems that over the past couple of weeks or so some one in our house has been sick.  I have visited more doctors offices over the past couple of weeks than I would have ever wanted to.  Throughout the craziness I remain thankful for medicine, for caring physicians, and for our good health. We live in a society that, for the most part, tends to be nurturing.  We see some one we love in need and we want nothing more than to help them.  Humans have a need to take care of each other.  Maybe you read that last sentence and are asking why I used the term "humans" instead of "people."  Well, fellow human, I'm glad you asked.

We have been watching a show called The Neighbors.  When we started the first episode I wasn't really sure what to expect or if I would even enjoy it.  We laughed throughout the entire episode and watched a couple more after that one; enjoying each one. The story is an interesting and fun one--a group of aliens who wish to learn more about earth purchase all the homes in a small housing addition and move in.  Eventually one of the houses becomes vacant and humans move in. So, you have this entire housing addition of aliens with one human family.  The humans try to teach the aliens how to be more human-like.  There was one episode entitled, "Cold War," in which the youngest human (a 6-year-old girl) gets a cold.  The leader of the aliens wants to quarantine the child to prevent others from becoming ill, but the humans explain that this isn't how things are done on earth and that we take care of each other.  The alien leader's wife watches the human mom take care of her child and longs to take care of others.  The human child eventually sneezes on her mother which leads to the entire family becoming ill.  The alien wife sneaks in to help the humans and eventually falls ill herself.  The other aliens come to care for those who have fallen ill. This prompts the alien leader to also join in and care for those who are ill.  The show is funny but it does a great job of illustrating human behavior.

I could easily relate to this episode.  As a mother you care for your sick children.  There was one day that Kaitlyn sneezed right in my face.  Living with children is like a germ war zone.  They are little germ factories and you spend your time desperately encouraging hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and trying to keep them from getting sick or spreading their germs to others in the household. Sometimes we are successful; other times we fail and the virus spreads like wildfire through the house.  Humans care about each other and we most definitely care about our children.  As a mother I do not take care of my child from a distance wearing gloves and a mask, fearing that I will get sick.  That never crosses my mind.  I simply want my child to feel better.  I will use germ-x like no one's business, spray the house down with Lysol, and up my Vitamin C intake, but my goal is to make sure my child is comfortable and feels better.  Should their illness spread to me, well, then I'll deal with that if and when it happens.  That is when Jacob steps in and helps with the kids and helps take care of me, and I him. We make a great team, my family and me.  And, although we could probably learn a lot from these TV aliens and prevent sickness by quarantining those who are ill, humans just aren't created that way. We want to help.  We want to love.  We want to nurture.  While no one wishes to be ill, I believe that caring for each other is what we are meant to do.

"I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit." -- Matthew 25:36

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Story Continues (Part 2)

For 15 years I have gone to a church service here, gone to a church service there.  We'd go a few Sundays and then stop.  The people didn't talk to us or we felt uncomfortable.  We always found something to complain about, some reason NOT to go back.  I am always telling my children that your attitude is a big factor in how your day will go.  Well, when you go to church with a negative attitude, odds are you're not going to get anything out of it. We went just looking for a reason not to go back.  And, we got nothing out of it.  Every. Single. Time.

I have several friends who do not go to church.  Friends who don't even believe in God.  Or friends who do but just feel like church is filled with people who are judging them, criticizing them, people who are sticking their noses in the air because church is their social hour and you are not part of their "clique."  Having stood where they stand, I can understand that.  I have seen people who have gone out of their way to not speak to  us.  People who sat in the church pews in front of us and gossiped about people in the church.  But, over the past week, a thought came to me--church isn't about the people, church is about God.  Sure, you have people who go to church to see their friends and socialize, and that is great.  It's good to have Christian friends to encourage you, but at the end of the day, the true reason for going to church is to seek God. To praise Him and thank him for all that you have--to learn more about Him and allow your relationship with Him to grow.  I realized that instead of paying so much attention to the people in the church, I should have been paying attention to God.

God was really nowhere in my life.  I had negative thoughts about church, even about Christians.  Then, things started happening.  My best friend started attending a bible study and I noticed some changes in her.  She seemed more positive about life.  I noticed that some of her choice words were no longer in her vocabulary. I noticed that her tough edge seemed to be a little softer and she just seemed different--happier.  Then, the father of one of my closest friends passed away suddenly.  When I learned of this news, my heart sank.  I remember feeling sick.  I rescheduled Alex's therapies and planned everything out and headed to Duncan the day before the funeral so I could not only attend the funeral but the visitation with the family as well. I grew up with this man.  He would ask me, "You going to church?"  If I said, "No,"  He would say, "No? How come?"  I, like so many others, would give him excuses and with each excuse he'd say, "Aww . . ." in an annoyed tone and say, "You need to be in church."  He never made me feel like he was judging me, but he cared and he wanted me to be where I needed to be.  "How you gonna grow closer to God if you're not going to His house?"  Honestly, at the time, I didn't care.  I went to this man's funeral.  You hear people give their testimonies and say, "And then I felt God touch me."  Nope.  My testimony is, " . . . and then I felt God smack me on the back of the head."  It has been long enough.  Get it together and start paying attention!  And I did.  People got up and talked about the awesome ways this man had served God during his life. He was a man after God's own heart and he served happily and would help anyone who needed help.  He was what every Christian should strive to be.  God used him in life--and he was able to use him in death, as well.

I realized that I was going about things all wrong.  People are funny.  We don't seek God.  We don't turn to God.  We take all that we have for granted.  When things go well we don't thank God for his blessings, no, we did it all on our own.  But, when things go bad we get angry with God and blame God.  "Why did God let this happen?"  I am starting to realized the utter insanity of humanity--God gets credit for nothing, except when things go wrong.  It makes no sense and I'm just as guilty as the next person.

While sitting in that pew during this man's funeral I felt God grabbing my attention.  Something happened inside me and I felt the need to get back in church, the desire to seek God in his Word and in prayer, and the urge to serve.  I know He is doing big things in my family, in my friend's lives, in my own life and I look forward to seeing how this is all going to play out.

And our story goes on . . .

Monday, March 4, 2013

My Journey Thus Far (Spoiler Alert: There's a lot of GOD in this entry!)

I can still hear my Grandpa Jack's voice saying, "Raise him up in the way of the Lord and he will not soon depart."  He'd say it with that little smirk he had and his eyes would sparkle just a little.

It might take him (or her) more than a decade to stop and pay attention, but, I am learning that my Grandpa Jack knew what he was saying--he wasn't just spouting off crazy things.  He knew.


When I was little we attended church every Sunday morning. After church we would have lunch with my grandparents--every Sunday.  We would then attend the Sunday evening service.  On Wednesday evenings we were in church as well.  My grandfather and my father were deacons in the church. My mom sang in the church, my father drove the church bus, my grandparents worked with the youth for a while and then, once they were older, cleaned the church.  I grew up with people who served God.  Growing up, I struggled with this.  I felt the urge, that hunger to dig into God's word and grow closer to Him. I felt a need to serve.  And serve is what I did . . . at least for a little while.  I went on mission trips and taught Sunday school.  Between the spaces in this timeline of my youth there were moments or rebellion. I reached an age where my father, who got up at an insane hour to get to work every morning, stopped attending church on Sunday and Wednesday.  If he wasn't going, then why did I have to go?  I remember my mom trying to encourage me to go, of course I felt she was judging and criticizing me.  I told her that if it wasn't important enough for dad to go, then why should I go?  So, I stopped going.  High school graduation came and went and college started. Without going into the details of this time in my life, let me just say this--I sought out the wrong people.  I clung to those who tore me down and made me feel alone--and I turned my back on God.  I had to hit rock bottom to realize that it was up to me to pick myself up, dust myself off, and make the changes needed to get my life back--otherwise, the outcome might not be a good one.  I did this.  It wasn't easy but I did it, but I still struggled--a lot.  For some reason I refused to turn to God.  I was angry.  If you mentioned church, God, or prayer it made me uncomfortable and I would try to change the subject.  I was angry at "So-called" born again Christians for saying one thing but not showing it in their daily lives.  I found fault with everything associated with church. I felt that if God could love and forgive sinners why weren't Christians more loving? Why were they not more caring?

Fast-forward to a few years ago.  Once you stop going to church the habit forms and it is very hard to get back into the habit.  We'd visit a few churches and then find a reason to stop going.  In 2004 we had Alex.  He had problems from the moment he was born and has struggled the entire 8 years of his life. I remember having moments where I was angry with God.  As Alex got older and we tried to attend church we were faced with a new problem--church kids being mean to our Alex. Why does God allow things like this to happen?  Why do these children who are supposedly being raised by Christian parents acting so un-Christlike? In 2006 we had Logan. He was a happy-go-lucky little guy and as he grew we noticed he was curious about everything. He thought about everything and wanted to know how things worked and why things were the way they were.  As he grew we began to notice that he was also very sensitive and had a big heart.  He cares about everyone and when he sees some one hurting, he hurts too.  He is my child that I can already see God working in and preparing him to do great things. About a year ago he started asking questions about church, God, and Jesus.  He has asked about baptism and the holy spirit--things that we haven't talked about.  I truly believe that Logan is seeking God and has a hunger to learn more.

This is the beginning of a new journey for us.
Part 2 to come. ;)