Friday, April 29, 2011

Do something...

As we sat in the closet tucked underneath the stairs in my basement, my son and daughter began to cry. We had seen it hit Tuscaloosa on the television, and we knew that there was no place deemed safe if that type of tornado hit us. We put batting helmets on the kids, hunkered down in the closet, and my my kids we aware that this was serious.

They were scared.

I was scared, too, but as the Mama of the house, there's no room for showing any fear. I had to remind myself, as I told them, the if we lost everything we had, we would be fine. The things most important to me were with me in that closet. I prayed for God to spread His hand over us and protect us. For some reason, we weren't hit. For reasons never to be understood, others were hit hard. The majority of an entire small town, Hackleburg, Alabama, is wiped away. Gone. Hundreds across my home state have lost their lives. Children lost their homes and perhaps their favorite stuffed animal.

My heart breaks.

During times like these, I often want to do something, but feel so limited as to what I am able to do. We don't have a lot of money. We may look as though we do, but that's because there was a time that we had plenty. But, let's face it; a lot has changed for many of us over the last two years. But here's what I have discovered in the past 24 hours... it doesn't take a lot to buy some basic necessities.

Let me list what I was able to do with just $100 (three donations combined):
10 deodorants
40 disposable razors
15 bars of soap
10 adult tooth brushes
15 kid tooth brushes with small kid's Crest
10 tubes of Colgate tooth paste
10 lip balms
3 packs of diapers
10 eighty-count packs of baby wipes
21 bottles of bubbles (my attempt at making a couple of children laugh ~ who doesn't enjoy bubbles?

Y'all... that's a lot of stuff!

Here's my challenge to YOU today. If you are reading this and feel compelled to help in any way, please do it! Even if you only have $5... head to the Dollar Tree (where I bought most of these items) and pick up some soap or shampoo or wipes or toilet paper or anything that may be needed by those who are left without homes! Find an organization or a church that is collecting items and donate! Give $10 to the Red Cross if you can't find anywhere else to donate. Just do something.

All I could think about was my children, their fear as we sat in the closet. Then I thought about how I would feel if I had to climb out of the rubble of my home with my kids and literally start all over. I don't know if that pulls on your heart strings, but it rips my strings off my heart.

You don't have to have a lot to make a big impact. Just do whatever you can...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spared...

Yesterday's weather was beyond frightening. I have lived in the South all my life, residing in several states in my youth ~ Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Northern Florida, and my short stint in Georgia during my first marriage. In all my years worth of tornado warnings and sitting in closets or hallways, I have never felt the way I felt yesterday.

There's something to be said for modern technology. I bustled about my basement, straightening, vacuuming, cleaning away with the nervous energy from the looming bad weather. I watched live as a tornado ravished through the streets of downtown Cullman, a small town a good ways north of where I live. I watched live as a tornado followed through the incredibly populated college town of Tuscaloosa, knowing this storm could possibly be heading toward us. The footage of these storms was unbelievable, as though a brilliant graphic designer had configured it perfectly in his computer to make your jaw drop open and gasp for air. But this was real. And it was tearing apart the physical lives of so many right before my eyes.

My aunt and uncle lost their home last night, but I am happy to report that they are safe and are be tending to by their family and church friends. My family was spared the grief of death, but so many families in my beautiful state have not been so lucky.

I love where I live. We are good people in Alabama. We are kind and loving, slower in pace, less caught up in the fluff and fancy of life. No, we're not perfect, and some may say we're too simple, but I am proud to be from Alabama and am already impressed by the kindness of those living in my state as they reach out to help those in need.

Please pray for all the families effected by a tornado outbreak of historical proportion. If you are interested in donating items, please contact me via email {crazymamacreations.com}. I have a friend in my area that is organizing the collection of supplies to be taken to the Pleasant Grove, Tuscaloosa, and Pell City areas.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Firm Forever

I stretched my legs out as far as they could reach underneath the sheet and quilt covering me, holding my breath for a minute trying to determine the source of the strange noise penetrating the silence outside my window. It was different; not the dog across the street or the trash truck picking up its load.

Sirens.

When I lived in Montgomery, sirens were a normal part of the spring. But for some reason (must be geological), the part of Shelby County, Alabama that I have lived in for seven years doesn't have a fraction of the tornado warnings I dealt with just 70 miles south. I think I have only heard the sirens go off at my house five times since moving, and two of those times have been in the last three weeks. In Montgomery, we became anesthetized to the sound, going about our daily business unless we actually caught an eyesight of a funnel cloud on the horizon. But now that I am removed from weekly tornado warnings, if I hear the distinct sound, I take cover.

5:25 am.

"Scott... turn the TV on... the sirens are going off..."

The man of the house got up to check on the status, put the umbrellas down outside, and let poor Buddy Love into the garage lest he get swept away in the wind. We then decided to get the kids up and carry them down to the basement. Better safe than sorry.

As I sat in between my two precious ones watching the radar visual of the squall line moving right over us, I thought about a Psalm that I fell in love with when I read it a few years ago.

The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity.
The seas have lifted up, O LORD, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea - the LORD on high is mighty.
Your statutes stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days, O LORD.
Psalm 93

In my mind, before I looked it up to refresh myself, I thought it said something about a storm. But the thunder I remembered in the Psalm was in reference to the ocean. The feeling is the same... the elements of the earth are out of our control. Perhaps that's the scariest part of hearing the sirens - knowing that the storm rages above you and there's absolutely nothing that can be done to stop it.

What I loved about the Psalm the first day I read it and highlighted it in the most obnoxious shade of yellow was the presence of God's mighty strength. How God never moves or changes. He is forever. He is from all eternity. He is not blown in the wind. He is still and firm. What He establishes cannot be moved by thunderous waves or storms.

Last night, I saw footage of storm ravaged Arkansas. I lived in the state for a brief period of time when I was in fourth grade, so I paid close attention to the news piece. The camera crew interviewed a lady, and it broke my heart. She said something to the effect, "It's hard to look around and see everything you've worked for is gone." I can't imagine.

I think it's become more important for me to keep in mind that there's only one thing in the entirety of this crazy world that does not change. God. He never changes, blows away, moves, goes up in flames, runs away, or hides. He is ever present in our lives. He is more powerful than any other force in the universe. He is from all eternity. He is eternity. He just simply is, and He wants to be with you. Yes, you. And me, and the cashier that rang up my minimal purchase at Walmart yesterday, and everyone else in the world. He wants to be our firm place of safety in an unreliable world.

That makes me feel a little better in the midst of this crazy severe weather outbreak so early in our spring. It makes me feel better in the second straight year of financial uncertainty in our country (that specifically effects my household). It makes me feel better, in general, to know that I have at least one certain thing in my life. People and things may come and go, but my LORD stands firm forever.

Amen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Clearing of the fog...

My mind has been in a fog for the past several days, the fog of humanity clouding my vision. My prayer life, Bible study time, blogging ability, and everyday mood have been affected. But this morning, the fog is lifting and I am feeling back to me.

So, what's been happening in the midst of my fog?

We played a tournament on Friday and Saturday night. I really wanted to buy the tee shirt (yes, most tournaments have tee shirts for sale... they will stop at nothing to make money off of us!) because the name of the tourney was the Easter Egg Scramble or something like that. But I refrained. Anywho... we played a 10 year old AA tournament for a couple of reasons. We wanted to challenge the boys, and it was so close to home and wouldn't infringe on any of our family's plans for the Easter holiday.

There are so many things to talk about in terms of the tourney. The size difference with some of the boys was hysterical. We are a relatively small team, most of our boys being average size with only two boys larger than average. On Saturday night, we played a team from Hoover, and the pitcher who took the mound for the first pitch of the game was the same size as my husband. I kid you not... he was the same height and weight as Scott. Our first batter is one of the smallest kids on the team, and his mom was seated next to me on the bleachers. She looked at me and said, "There's no way..." I disagreed with her, and hit her on the leg when her son got a hit. In baseball, it's not all about size. Technique and composure top physical size, and my little Bandits have plenty of that to go round. We held our own, and the Hoover team beat us by one run in their final at bat.

I think we placed 3rd or 4th out of 12 ten year old teams. Not too shabby.

Easter morning, we loaded up and headed south to go to church with my parents. They've been visiting a Presbyterian church in Millbrook. I am not certain why they chose the Presbyterian church... that's one of the few denominations I haven't visited, so I was glad to see what it was like. There were ladies in hats and their Easter best, and the little old lady sitting in front of me had her black patent pocketbook lying on the pew bench. Reminded me of my childhood. When the preacher (or is it Reverend?) started speaking, he began talking about Liz, a woman diagnosed with cancer who went through all the treatment only for the cancer to return. The two minutes he talked about Liz seemed to last 45. I squirmed in my seat as he used various adjectives to describe cancer... deadly, fatal, mortal, incurable. I asked God, "Why on earth are you allowing us to suffer this? And in Your very house?"

As he continued to speak, I understood. I understood why God would have us be a little uncomfortable. I realized what my Father wanted to remind me of. Hope. He talked of hope. Hope in a God who is able to raise the dead. Hope in Jesus who was able to remain free of sin, suffer in the cruelest death, and conquer the tomb. Hope in something that is bigger than any problem on this earth. Hope.

I think it was important to be reminded of Hope in Him. We all get so caught up sometimes placing our hope in people, on success, financial gain, security, relationships, love, and various other things of this world. But what I need to remember in the midst of any problem or trial is that my hope needs to remain in Him, the only one who can teach and mold in the most challenging of circumstances, who can sustain us, who will protect us and intercede for us. Why would we place our hope in anything of this world when we have God as an option?

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

Good Friday. Every day should be a good day when you think about these words:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2

There's something about the word condemned. The sound of the word itself puts the image of an old, dilapidated house barely standing after years of neglect. On one of the outside walls is tacked a public notice of condemnation by the governing officials of the land warning passers by to stay away. Condemned. No good. Worthless. Set to be torn down.

That's pretty much the human plight, isn't it? Dilapidated. No good. Outer walls and roof full of holes and every window broken. Citizens of our fallen world looking in and seeing nothing but our mistakes, criticizing every move.

Through the death of one man, the only sinless human that ever walked the face of the earth, we have been set free from condemnation and the death that goes along with it. How amazing is that?

I noticed something for the first time in this verse just this morning as I typed. The Spirit of life. Jesus died and left us a Spirit of life. I like that thought... I've always loved the thought of the Spirit living within me, but knowing the it is a Spirit of life brought about by a death... well, it makes it all the more special.

Am I living as though I have the very Spirit of life inside of me? There's a new challenge to take hold of every morning. Live with the Spirit of life infused in every fiber of my body. Live as though I've been set free from the condemnations that coincide with this world. Live every day knowing that He suffered for me, allowing that thought to seep in and effect my way of thinking and acting and loving. Will I ever be perfect? Nope. But the glory of it is that I don't have to be.

I hope anyone reading this has a beautiful weekend making precious memories with those they love most in the world. And beyond the bunnies and the baskets, think on the tomb. The empty one left behind. Then think about the Spirit of life that takes residence in your heart.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Taking up my shield...

This morning, I prepare myself for battle.

Lately, seems like there are more battles to fight during the day. Ever feel like that? Ever feel like Satan is hovering around you and infusing his thoughts into the people you're connected with to carry out his plan. Mind you, since God's plan and Satan's are always right opposite from one another, I can usually feel the spiritual tugging back and forth.

God seeks to elevate me. Satan wishes to push me into the depths. God wants me to rest in His mighty hand. Satan tries to drown me under the weight of this imperfect world.

Just last night, I heard Satan's laugh. He will stop at nothing. He is intimidated by my purpose right now, and I feel the heat of his panting on the back of my neck. The Evil One is orchestrating in ways I never dreamed possible, and, just last night, I felt the sting of another attack.

I was reminded of a passage from the Psalms...
The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. {143:3-4}

In the margin, I wrote Satan pushes us into depression. I look back over my life and see a pattern of depression. Hereditary? Perhaps. But what is more common throughout the generations of this world than the ongoing spiritual warfare between good and evil? I know, for me and my spiritual life, depression has threatened to separate me from God more so than my actual sin. Depression puts me in the dark, a place where I feel uncertain, unloved, unworthy, and I am pretty sure Satan claps his hot hands when he sees me there.

I woke this morning with that Psalm on my mind. Funny how my God provides for me like that. I don't have it anywhere near memorized, mind you, but I could see my handwritten note in the margin on the pages of my brain, and I hunted through my Bible until I found it. I ended my night in prayer, asking the Lord to give me a freshness in the morning, to shake off the arrows of the Evil One, to move forward in peace. Here's what comes later in the that Psalm I quoted above...
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Rescue me from my enemies, O LORD, for I hide myself in you. {143:8-9}

I can't comprehend a life without God. He works in these amazing ways in my life every day. I feel His presence even in the worst of situations. He calls me nearer to Him, He sets my internal GPS, and He washes me in His grace every single morning. He gives me all I need every single day, whether I realize it or not. In God, I have a full armor; I simply have to take the initiative to put it. So, today, as I prepare myself for another day of battle against the ways of this world, I've decided to put on my shield of faith...

... take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one... {Ephesians 6:16}

I will literally wear it, as well, so that I keep it in my mind all day long. Keep moving forward... God is on your side.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pink Shirt

Pink shirt. That was David's request for Easter. Well, at first, it was a pink shirt... from Abercrombie. But then, after swirling thought in the almost ten year old brain, purple was deemed the color of choice. When I asked the obvious question, "But what if I can't find a purple shirt at Abercrombie? What's your second choice?" He answered, "Light purple."

Preciate the clarification.

At the ripe age of nine and three quarters, David very seldom pays attention to his appearance. He puts on a hat to avoid combing his hair. He would go daaaayyyyysssss without brushing his teeth if we allowed him to do so. He relishes pants with holes in the knees. He wears things that don't match. As a matter of fact, he wore an outfit that doesn't match this very morning. I used to argue with him about what goes with what, but I have learned to let it go. I assume these things work themselves out, like when he finds out what girls are good for. Until then, I will comb his hair in the morning, make sure he brushes his teeth at least six times a week, and help to match outfits for the big things ~ school functions, dances, church, and Easter.

One can imagine my surprise when David had a wardrobe request for Easter. I was as shocked as I was delighted. But when our color choice {in order of desire} is purple, light purple, pink, or light pink, I knew my task would be daunting. And then add in that he wanted it from a specific store, Abercrombie, one in which we have purchased a very limited number of shirts in the past, I realized that David not caring about his appearance definitely has its perks.

I set out for the Galleria yesterday ready for battle. First stop: Abercrombie, where the music is louder than an 80's cover band at 1 AM in a smoky bar. No purple. No lavender. Like NONE in the whole store. I don't even think I saw any over on the girls' side. I did get a peak at that padded bikini top, and, yes, it is horrendous. Moving right along to Gap Kids. They had a purple tee shirt, but unfortunately, it had a rather large dragon graphic across the front. What is the deal with dragons and boys' clothing? I digress...

Belk. Purple Polo. Could work, only I knew it wasn't the look David was going for. Though Polo and Abercrombie's prices are ridiculously compatible, the look is totally different.

Macy's. Purple and bright green striped button down Polo. Flashy, but too expensive, and not certain if it would meet the demanding criteria for Easter 2011.

Zipped into Hollister to see how small their smallest size looked. If I never walk into Hollister ever again, it will be one day too soon. It's the only store in the universe that plays their music louder than Abercrombie and that pumps in their signature fragrance like casinos pump in pure oxygen. And, besides that, it will be a couple of years before David is able to wear their smallest size. Thank goodness.

Back to Abercrombie. Let's reassess the situation. No purple, already covered that. Plenty of pink. Pink tee shirt with an off white embellishment on the front. Yet another pink choice with some writing on it. One more pink tee shirt with bright green letters across the chest. The one that came home with me, however, was a pink and white polo style shirt, the colors alternated horizontally in bold stripes. $21.60 out the door, in a bag that probably costs $10 to make, a headache, and a longing to keep my daughter as far away from that store and the half-naked boy on the $10 bag as I can possibly keep her.

David was pleased. Madalyn approved of her brother's shirt. Scott realized the difference in clothing tastes of an almost 40 year old and an almost double digit boy. And Mama was just relieved to have left the Galleria with what little bit of sanity I walked in there with. {Not only am I ending my sentence with a preposition, but I'm ending the entire post that way.}

Monday, April 18, 2011

Delight...

As I have talked about several times before, I have been participating in the Siesta Scripture Memory Challenge this year. At this point in the challenge, I am eight verses deep, and I am finding that the most difficult part of each passage to remember is the actual chapter and verse. I am also realizing that lying in bed and reciting all the passages in my mind in order is getting near impossible. But I am still trucking forward. I may not have them verbatim in my little crazy mind, but the gist of it is there, and my heart grasps the meaning, and that's the most important part.

The past month has immensely different than the average month for me. If you had asked me three months ago what I'd be focusing on right now, I would have answered that I'd have a complete manuscript of my first novel under my belt, be planning a trip to the She Speaks Conference in July (to take the writing track, of course), my laundry would be caught up and my toilets would be clean. Not so much...

It's not that I have quit writing, but I have changed my focus. It's not that I don't feel called to write the story spinning in my mind, but I have felt a stronger tug in another direction. The glory of penning fiction is that the characters and their stories don't go anywhere; they are ever alive in my mind, growing richer with time, just like real people. There is time ahead to write the story, and there must be a reason for the shift in life direction at this point. I had often felt when writing my novel, one based on Spiritual journey, that I was learning alongside my main character. Maybe I need to be more ahead of her to finish her tale. And so I wait patiently on the time to complete her story.

If you had told me that I'd be spending the bulk of my time making jewelry, I would have laughed. This is nothing I would have ever set out to do. For as much joy as it has brought me, there have also been difficulties and hurdles. Working from home has proven to be way more difficult to maneuver than I ever dreamed. I have a family who is used to things being a certain way ~ clean clothes in the drawers, snacks in the pantry, life not necessarily perfect but usually in order. The order around here has been replaced with an even more forgetful mama and toilets not quite up to my usual standards. Even though this has brought more stress to my day-to-day, the happiness creating things with my hands has brought me is unexplainable.

This journey so far has made me realize that though we {humans} might plan things out and have a general vision for our future, sometimes things sort of drop down in front of us that alter the course. I found this verse in the Psalms last week while searching for something totally unrelated to my memory challenge. Though I had heard it a multitude of times before, it didn't root in my heart until that day. Immediately I knew it would be my next verse.

Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

The other times I had read the scripture, I just kept thinking, "How in the world can I anticipate God to give me the desires of my heart?" Raised a gracious Southern girl, I learned at an early age that it wasn't appropriate to desire much of anything. Desire too much money and you're called greedy. Too much food makes you a glutton (and probably a little chubby, too). Too much alcohol and you've got a host of other issues. Desire someone else's shoes and it's coveting. The word desire, to me, has always had a negative connotation, meaning more a longing for something of the world not of the spiritual realm. So I never could reconcile the how God would want to fulfill my desires.

Until last week. I was totally jumping ahead to the last part of the verse, getting hung up on the thought of the reward, not the responsibility attached. I finally heard the delight part...

If I am living in a state in which I want to follow the Lord, He and I will be on the same page with the same agenda in mind. I will gain join joy by completing His divine task for me, and He will rejoice in my success. His desires will be my desires. Divine desires. Not earthly, gluttonly, lustful desires, but heavenly, Godly, goodly desires.

I had a David moment when I finally got it... imagine me trying to explain a very simple concept to my nine year old son, and after about ten minutes of frustration, a light bulb goes off, and he says, "Ooooooooohhhhhhhhhh......" {the OH has about 27 syllables ~ I love the South}

So, there you have it. Verse #8. Delight = desires. And I definitely desire to delight my Creator.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rummage Sale

My alarm went off at 5:15 yesterday morning. That's not normal. There's really no reason (in my mind) to get up at that awful hour other than to be on your way to the hospital to have labor induced because you are five or six days passed your due date. Just sayin'. Yesterday, there were no babies born, but rather I headed up to Gardendale for my son's baseball team's annual rummage sale.

Here's an amazing fact... this is the third year in a row we've participated in this fundraising endeavor, yet each year, we all have an amazing amount of rummage to donate. Does this amaze you, too? Where does all this stuff come from? Of course, there are always clothes we've grown out of. There are toys that are no longer age appropriate. I didn't have as much this year as in the past two, but I had a ginormous contractor's trash bag so full and heavy that I couldn't pick it up.

My mom always gives me a collection of things. Of course, I have to look through it all before taking it to the sale. Two years ago, she tossed her mustard yellow Tupperware canister set in the box, and I saved those from the box. I still haven't used them, but they are just a part of my DNA, and the thought of selling them for $2 to some old lady carrying around 50 dollar bills tucked in her bra just made me sick. So I kept them. This year, I kept a pine cone basket. Who doesn't need one? Apparently my mother can live without now, but she's had so many years with it, so I see her desire to pass it on. But I was thinking I could dust it off a bit and pull it out at Christmas. It reminds me of Christmas at my mom's house. And I just couldn't sell Christmas at my mom's house for $1 at a rummage sale. So I kept it.

I debated with myself (if that's possible) about the wooden salt and pepper shakers. They say on our stove or kitchen counter for my entire childhood. I honestly don't recall salt or pepper ever actually being in either shaker, but there they would sit. I finally decided that, no, I did not need to keep them. I don't know if we sold them or not; I never saw them in a box headed to donation, so I guess I'll never know. But this morning, I find myself wishing I had kept them. But I guess it's too late.

I find myself doing that a lot here lately. Holding onto things. Just wanting little pieces of her everywhere. Wishing I could see her every day. Talking to her as many times as I can. Appreciating what she's given me throughout my life. Knowing how blessed I am to have what I have with her. She's near about the best mom in the world, and I have had that for almost 35 years. Some people live a whole life and never have a mom like her. God has blessed me richly.

I know deep down inside that it's not about the Tupperware or the basket or the salt and pepper shakers. It's about accepting that I have zero control of what's raging inside of her. The cells gone haywire. The cancer. And so I hold onto the things that I can. The literal things. Funny thing is that those aren't even the things that matter. It's the memories that carry on forever. It's the words she's said to me for so many years, the advice, the laughter we've shared. And, I guess, when I really stop to think about it, those are things I will never find in a cardboard box on the way to a rummage sale.

My mom made a great memory with Madalyn yesterday when she took her to the Disney Princess on Ice show. I wept when I read her honesty on Caring Bridge... I am trying to make memories while I can. Though it hurts to hear her say the words and makes the cancer feel so much more real to me, I love her all the more for it. She's making the most of every day. She's sharing herself with all her loved ones. She's pretty stinking amazing. And she's my mom.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Inseparable...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading over the Scriptures that were shared with me both here and on Facebook. I love the Word of God. I love how I am drawn to certain passages and hear a voice within each word. I love how the words have been translated and passed down and loved and shared for centuries and centuries and centuries.

As I have stated here before, it wasn't until I sat down to read the Bible for myself that I started to grasp God's love for me. My reading time with Him has become our time for communication ~ He to me through the words on the pages, and I to Him through prayer about what I read and whatever may be going on in my life at the time. It's the most special time, and if I skip a couple of days, I can feel the difference in my soul.
So, when I first read the winning entry to my little give-away, I knew instantly it would be the one to beat.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. {Romans 8:38-39}

These are words I wish I had understood earlier in my life. If I had, I may not have wasted so much time in grief, shame, and depression. But because of that dark time in my life, I appreciate the words even more. There's nothing that can separate me from God's love because of Jesus. Nothing. I love that thought, especially when Paul specifies that no demons or powers can pull us out of God's love.

When I think of demons, I don't think evil spirits, but rather the daily demons of our life. The bad habit you want to break. Stress. That person who insists on posting jabs directed at you on Facebook. The lost relationship. The failed marriage. The pile of unpaid bills. We've all encountered these daily demons at some point in our life, and though they may bring our moods down and effect our emotions, isn't it nice to know that they don't separate you from the love of God? He loves me all the time. Every day. Every morning, afternoon, and night. He doesn't care if I ate too many carbs or if my savings account has a balance of zero. He simply loves. And there's nothing that can break that love because we have been reconciled by Jesus.

Like I said, it took me way too long to figure this out. But I am glad to finally accept it and feel it grow inside me. And that's part of the reason why I branched out and started this little business venture. I saw an opportunity to spread little pieces of God's word that have meant so much to me over the years. I can create a piece of jewelry that keeps a specific passage at the forefront of the mind of the lady wearing it all day long. I can pull one word out of a scripture and create something beautiful. I can leave a pleasant surprise on the back of all my baseball and softball mom necklaces. I can plant little seeds of God's word all around.

So here's the word I chose: inseparable. Here's how the word is defined... incapable of being separated or disjoined; seemingly always together; very intimate. Once I read the definition, I fell immediately in love with the word as it relates to my relationship with God. And there you go. A necklace is born.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Consider this my sermon notes...

Me and my little man are a lot alike. We're full of life and love for all. We enjoy people and making them smile. We are very internal people, focusing in on what we've done wrong most of the time. One of the attributes that drives me batty about my son is his seeming laziness. I almost hesitate to use the word lazy as it's not an entirely accurate description of him. David's laziness is more of an avoidance of failure, the outward manifestation of a raging whirlwind of insecurity inside his little soul.

This is something his Crazy Mama understands all too well ~ the whirlwind of raging insecurity.

Did y'all know that I played softball when I was little? When I was five and six, I played on a coach pitch team, donning the knee-highs proudly on crisp Saturday mornings. I remember well the feeling I had in the pit of my stomach each time I got up to bat ~ I was afraid of whatever would happen, whether I hit the big ole' white ball or not. If I struck out, I'd be embarrassed. If I hit it, I then had to run the bases, and I was terrified I wouldn't be fast enough and they would throw or tag me out. So either outcome embarrassment seemed the inevitable reward. In the field, I played out the same philosophies in my mind. As one can guess, I was planted out in right field where the big ole' white ball seldom rolled or dropped. I'd stand out there, glove on my bended knee, hoping that nothing would come my way. I was miserable on the softball field, and I never played again. It's a running joke in my family about my stint as a softball player, and I take it with thick skin. I was awful, no doubt. But I don't think anyone comprehended the battle that took place inside my head during every game.

Now, David plays highly competitive baseball, so I know that if the battle rages in between his ears, he must be way more effective at tuning it out. Or perhaps he's just way more talented than his mama ever dreamed of being. Either way, he's been successful in almost anything he's tried to do. But I look at him and I sense that self-doubt. It's all over him ~ the way he carries himself once he's made a mistake, the little faces I see him make as he's beating himself up on the inside ~ and it breaks my heart. And it's not limited to sports. Three years ago, the first time he put on a pair of roller skates, he was in tears within ten minutes of trying, so embarrassed that he couldn't quite maintain his balance. Just last night, he was in tears with his math homework, telling me, "But I'm just not good at this..." Arrow through my heart...

I think David and I are going to have a little vocabulary lesson. There are two words I want to talk to him about, and you are lucky enough {hahahaha} to read my thoughts as I try to collect and organize them for our discussion this afternoon. These are traits I want to see him focus on, ones I know he can understand and work toward:

tenacious: not easily pulled apart; persistent
zeal: eager desire to get something done or see something succeed

The latter of the two he has in his heart, whether he outwardly shows it or not. He's like me; he wants everyone to do well in all things all the time. He'll do whatever it takes to help or further a cause. But zeal without tenacity is irrelevant. Tenacity leaves no room for fear of failure or embarrassment as it is not easily pulled apart. In a way, tenacity is faith in action. Whether we're talking about our spiritual tenacity, our work ethic, or completing a 4th grade math assignment, tenacity means putting the faith in our ability to move forward into play.

I think I need this sermon more than my son. Tenacity is something I've never possessed much of throughout my life. I've lived so much of it paralyzed by fear ~ of failure, of not living up to expectations, of falling flat on my face. Take this blog, for example; only four people knew of its existence for a right long time because a huge part of me was afraid of what people would think about the words I typed. Seems crazy, doesn't it? And you thought I called myself Crazy Mama for a laugh? Only a few weeks ago was I zealously tenacious enough to post a link of my blog on facebook so that whoever could read what I had written because I finally accepted that what I say here is of value. So maybe, since I am learning right alongside him, my little man can get a 9 year old grasp of this big concept... maybe just a little. Enough to believe more in himself, in who he is ~ this amazing creature of God that, in my mind, must be destined to do amazing things.

Here's a thought to close with, and it's so, so very fitting. I think I'll share this one with David, written by a man who shares his name who lived a life full of tenacity for the LORD, though he made a ton of mistakes along them way:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. {Psalms 139:13-14}



Monday, April 11, 2011

Question for you...

I have to cut the front yard today, or my husband will fire me for not meeting all the specs outlined in my occupation description. I have tons of laundry to do which includes two pair of very dirty baseball pants currently soaking in a bath of Biz. The bed needs making, the kitchen floor needs mopping, I have three orders that need to be worked on, and I have a chapter to read in my current online Bible study. But I am writing this blog post first.

Sooooo... what's your favorite Bible verse? As in the one that sends chills down your spine or that challenges you the most or that speaks right to your heart. I think mine changes throughout life. Right now, if I had to pick one it would be, "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you." {Isaiah 60:1} There's just something about that verse that enables me to hear God, actually hear Him speaking right to me.

See, for me, I heard and felt God's presence from an early age in my life. Raised in a very religious home, I thought I had an understanding of who He was and how He felt about me. Until something happened. Until I fell incredibly short and was hurt because of it. Until my soul was wounded. Then I felt shunned by God, punished, damaged. With my old concept of God that had been strung together in my little perfectionist mind as a child, I believed there was no place for me in God's Kingdom. Until I read Isaiah. You see, God wooed the Israelites back after failing, sinning, worshipping idols, willfully disobeying the Word of God. He begged them to come back to Him. So, in my adult mind, I realized that if God felt this way about the people of Israel, why wouldn't He feel that way about me? And then factor in Jesus who would intercede for me, and it looked like more of a possibility to me that God could forgive even me. The nineteen year old me that carried a burden in my heart of being somewhere I shouldn't have been, doing things I shouldn't have been doing, and placing my trust on someone other than God. Yeah, that girl ~ the one who had been running the show for way too long and not letting it go so that the real me could carry on.

How about this version of the same verse from the Message: Get out of bed, Jerusalem! Wake up! Put your face in the sunlight. God's bright glory has risen for you. I love to insert my name in certain verses, and in this one, it works perfectly. And I love to think about God's glory rising for me.

So, that's my favorite verse for now. And I pose the question to anyone who reads this post... what's yours? What verse speaks to you at this point in your life, whether you are completely content, battling an illness, in financial strain, going through a divorce, having a baby... God's word is perfect for all times of life. Here's the game I want to play: Go up there to the right corner and click the "like" button and leave a comment under my status about my new contest. All you have to do is give me the Book, chapter and verse of your favorite Scripture along with your favorite color. I'll pick my favorite (no cutting up 35 pieces of paper and scribbling names this time ~ I'm just gonna pick the one I like best!) and create a custom pendant for you to have. I may even add it to my repertoire... who knows! This is what I long to do for women, so I want to get it started now! And what better way to start something than to do a give-away. If you don't have a Facebook account, feel free to leave me a comment on this blog, and I will enter you in the mix!

And don't be shy... PLEASE! I love getting feedback and comments and hearing verses that inspire others! Please join in the FUN!

I'll be taking comments until midnight Wednesday evening, so start thinking!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Hodgepodge

I don't know if hodgepodge is a real word, but there's no red squiggly line below it, so there must be more than one person in the world who seems to think it is. Below is a hodgepodge of my random thoughts for today:

~ I've been busy this week. And it feels fantastic. Busy using my hands to make things. Busy using my brain to think of new things to do. Busy. I like it. I feel like I have this amazing outlet for the creative energy in my mind, and I praise God for it.

~ Do you ever have those moments in life when you feel God smiling on you? Well, I had one this afternoon, but I won't get into specifics. But I felt it in my bones, and that felt better than being busy this week.

~ We'll be at the ball park all weekend. In Montgomery. That will be neat. There will family around to watch, and there's still a part of my heart that calls Montgomery home. Baseball, right now, is an outlet... an "out" from our home where total focus is on something other than real life. And that's feels good, too.

~ I will be doing another give-away next week for my necklaces. This one will be strictly on Facebook, so be sure to check in Monday for that. But it will pertain to you, your favorite verse in the Bible, and your favorite color. My heart is fully committed to make custom pieces for women that remind them of their favorite verse in the Bible. I've made a couple of these this week, and they excite me far more than anything else. Knowing someone will open a package and see something I made that will bring them joy or comfort or peace every time they wear it just thrills my soul.

~ I am happy. My mom has cancer, we're broke, the economy is still a mess, my life looks totally different right now than I ever thought it would look, and I am the happiest I have ever been in my life. Thank you, Lord.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Real life conversation...

This is a real-life conversation that occurred in my house this morning. You can't make this stuff up, people.

Let me preface by saying that Madalyn walked out the door of school yesterday looking less than her cheery self. After inquiring what the cause of the longer than normal face, she confessed that her mouth hurt. I looked in her mouth, at the gum line underneath her bottom teeth, and it did look a little red, but I saw no visible signs of an ulcer. When I rubbed my finger across the area, I felt a slight bump, and she winced, so I knew I was on the right spot. It was quite a big deal to her; most painful situations are. She's a little dramatic. I know those of you reading this who have been around me in person for longer than five minutes find this incredibly hard to believe that I could bear a dramatic child, but, alas, it is true.

So, Motrin was administered, and that seemed to ease the pain. Until bedtime. More Motrin was needed, but the pain followed her into the dawn of a new day...

This morning:
"It hurts!"
"Okay, okay... I'll give you some Motrin and that will help it."
"But write a note for school."
"No, no... you don't need a note for school..."
"YES I DO! It hurts when I yell..."
"So don't yell."
"But they make me yell sometimes. IT HURTS WHEN I YELL!" {Please note at this point she's committed herself to a low-yell with me; I did not point this out to her, however, knowing it would spin the whole conversation off in another not-so-pleasant direction. I know this girl well.}
"Madalyn, they will not make you yell if you tell them it hurts."
"YES THEY WILL!"
"Okay, just tell Mrs. R that you have a sore in your mouth and your Mama says for you NOT to yell today. I promise they will forgive you NOT yelling..."
"Okay..."

Can you tell she's related to a car man? I have a six year old little girl trying to convince me that her teachers require her to YELL at school. And that they'll be mad at her if she doesn't. Okay.

On a totally unrelated note, David's bus driver had a heart attack. I would, too, if I drove a bus twice a day filled with children. But that's not my point. So, of course, they have a fill-in driver and have been told she will probably not return this year. She was such a sweet lady and had full control of that bus without being ugly. And she looked awfully young to have a heart attack, but young-looking is becoming older and older in my book. I digress.

Yesterday, the bus rounds the corner of our street, and I hear this sound... the sound of pirates, almost. Like that ride at Disney, the Pirates of the Caribbean. Boistrous singing and laughing and carrying on. And I thought, "What in the world? Where is all that noise coming from?" The fill-in stops in front of the house, swings open that bus door, and the sound floats down the steps right behind David. The bus driver was perched on her seat just smiling. I looked at David and said, "What in the world is going on in there?" He replies, "Oh, Mama... she don't care if we yell or sing or be loud. She doesn't even make us sit in our assigned seats." My reply, "What medication is she on??????"

If you don't currently live in Shelby County, Alabama, maybe you should. I have the next ad campaign for the Board of Education all ironed out: Shelby County School Systems... where we make our children yell at school and let the kids sing loudly on the bus!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I've been SET UP!!!

I have totally been set up... put together... backed into a corner and made to focus on some issues. By God.

A couple of years ago, I subscribed to the P31 Daily Devotions. They come to your email address every day, and it's free. About a year and a half ago, one hit my inbox that really made me stop and think about myself. It was entitled "Stained and Ruined" and it was the very day before I was scheduled for my first therapy session. I was in a bad place; unsatisfied, unhappy, discontent, generally sick of it all. The devotion that day was based on the emotional journey the writer had taken in recovering from the shame of sexual abuse. I read the words through my tears, completely relating to all the feelings she described. I clicked on her name, started following her blog, and here I am today participating in her online Bible Study based on a book written by another P31 Woman, one whose blog I have been following for a few months now. I don't know if anyone sees God's hand in all of this, but I have felt it, and that's good enough for me.

The past couple of weeks have been tough for me personally. I written several posts and then deleted them, not certain if I should discuss publicly what's been going on behind the scenes. It's hard for me, the blogger, when I'm going through these types of issues. I want to blog openly, but when it comes to certain situations, I shouldn't just put it all out there for the world to see. I've been in the midst of a major conflict with someone I used to call good friend. For me, the feelings date back almost a year. My friend did something ~ something very hurtful, showing total disregard to me and my husband ~ and though I tried to move forward in forgiveness, I couldn't forget. This little voice inside of me kept whispering, "You shouldn't trust her..."

That's what's hard in life. When you want to trust, to love, to maintain relationships, but you don't feel you look at things the same way. You don't feel the level of respect is the same on both sides. I've tried overlooking certain comments, playing dumb, looking the other way, pushing the doubts I had as far down as I could, and so on, but the sadness of the fact remained: our friendship had been permanently changed. Never having had this situation in my life before, it's been painful and difficult. In the past week, other issues have come up, and I completely lost my cool and said my piece in anger, something I completely regret. But what's done is done, on both sides.

I had to laugh when on Monday morning, I turned the page to chapter three of It's No Secret, the book we are reading, and see that it's about humility. And then look forward to chapter four and find that it's about conflict. In the words of Bruce Almighty: "Ok, God... now you're just showing off!!" You see, God is literally working big time on my heart and helping me to find ways to be His throughout my life. It isn't just about following all the right rules, looking and sounding a certain way, going to a certain building every Sunday, but more about oozing Him and His love and His hope to all those around you. That's what I'm working on. That's who I want to be. And I can't allow a conflict with a friend to hinder or slow down this work in progress.

It's hard. Life. It's disappointing. Imperfect. Sad at times. The past few days, I have literally had to stop myself and ask this question, "Are you moving in God's direction for your life?" I think I am. Does this mean you may lose some friends, acquaintances, desires of your heart along the way? Yes. And it will hurt. But that's life. Keep moving forward.

In the Bible Study portion of chapter three, the author, Rachel Olsen, gave a list of scriptures from Proverbs to read, and this one stuck out to me:

In his heart, a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. Proverbs 16:19

Arrow through the heart, that one was. I can plan it all out, figure out my desired path, but God is in control, and if I am moving in a direction not ordained by Him, He will let me know. I've certainly experienced this in my life before... This is the place I am in my life ~ ready and willing to walk His path for my life, trying to do what will be pleasing to Him, not me or my friends or anyone else around me. It proves itself not so easy sometimes. But I am trying to surrender myself to what I feel He wants me to do.

I can't say that any of my rambling made any sense to anyone else in this world other than me this morning. But I don't guess that really matters either. It's me and You, God. I am listening. I hear You, I see the way, and I am trying my best to follow it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

It's baseball season!

You know you've all been waiting on this one... the following is a BASEBALL post.

We played in a tourney this weekend in Homewood, which, geologically, was fantastic for all the families on our team. Homewood sits right smack dab in between Gardendale and Alabaster, the two little towns that are home to all our boys. No need for hotels, packing up the whole house and pantry, or driving forever to get to the park.

I'll back track by saying that we went through a few changes back in the fall. We lost a couple of families. Like any loss in life, is was upsetting. But after this weekend, it's obvious that the loss of one certain personality was an incredibly positive change. Funny how one person, whether you're willing to admit it or not, can change the dynamic of an entire team. Just their presence, their mood, their hora can reek havoc or bring about calm. Let's just say that the mood on our team is nothing but relaxed. We are out to win on the field, but there's no competition with one another. And I must say how blessed I am to be a part of this great group of kids and parents.

The boys have really come together nicely in this whole new world of kid pitch. We were all a little unsure of what to expect this season. We've all talked to one another, reminding each other that we can't possibly expect our kids to be as successful this year as their past two seasons. But their first two tournaments have proved us wrong. They came in second place in their first tournament of the season and first this weekend. These boys just play with such heart and passion. They love the game, and they believe in each other. When they get down, they don't give up ~ they know they can come back because, together, they've done it before. They are a team in the truest sense of the word, and they are living something out in these early years that very few boys their age get to do. Learning lessons that will stick with them throughout life. And there's another thing I am thankful for.

David had a rough tournament altogether. He's making far more errors at first base this season than he's made in all the seasons he's played combined. But the game is so different, and the pressure surrounding it is intense. If a runner is on his bag, he's got to be 100% ready for the pick or the bunt or a hit coming to him in the air or on the ground. It's a lot going on in his little head at one time. But, for the most part, he's doing well. He struggled in the batters box as well until the second game yesterday when he finally made solid contact with the ball. He came alive in the last game, and I was so happy he did. No one likes to see their son questioning their ability, and that's exactly what he had been doing all weekend. He's a great ball player. No doubt in my mind. But my little man has a personality like mine... full of questions, doubt, insecurity. And it breaks my heart. But, hopefully, he will learn to morph that insecurity into something more appealing: humility.

We did have a little ball park drama during the last game. One of the opposing team's coaches was ejected. Lovely show for the kids with a parent climbing on the fence and hurling insults across the way at the home plate umpire, screaming, "YOU SUCK! YOU SUCK! YOU SUCK!" All over two calls ~ one was a hit called foul, and the next a pitch called a strike to send the batter packing. Here's the deal about calls on the field; you may disagree, but there's no sense making a fool of yourself about it. And, in this particular game, we were up by 8 runs, so it's not like it made a big difference. But it did make the game interesting. The you suck fan was dressed in a black sleeveless tee shirt, had tats all over his arm, and in general represented the great state of Alabama in true stereotypical form.

Oh, and to answer the question you've got stirring in you head... yes, I yelled back at him. Crazy Mama hollered out, "Show some class in front of the kids!" I'm sure it made a big difference in his life... I am sure he will never ever again climb the fence and scream, "You suck!" Maybe I'd rather him not wear a black wife-beater again...

Friday, April 1, 2011

No fear...

When I was in middle or high school, the skater dudes wore these tee shirts that said "NO FEAR" on them in some wicked looking font. Don't know why that sticks out in my mind; I can't say I was ever attracted to the skater type, but I remember the shirts none the less.

Last night, as I lay in bed knowing I'd have to pick a verse this morning to focus on and commit to memory over the next couple of weeks, I felt especially challenged. The past week has been a whirlwind in more ways than one. There have been some incredible things to celebrate, and there have been some major disappointments. How does one find a verse that marks this place in my life? That's what I've been trying to do ~ find verses that mean something to me right now. I prayed that God would lead me to a verse this morning.

And, just like God always does, He provided. He never disappoints.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John: 4:18

I was looking for a clean piece of paper in a notebook this morning, and found this verse written underneath another verse from 2 Peter. I scribble verses all over the place. I don't know why. Part of it has to do with that I can generally keep nothing all to myself around this house! If I start a notebook just for verses, it turns up in one of the kids' rooms with Crayola scribbles all over 80% of its pages within days. So it was funny to me to find this verse, and it completely made my mind spin.

I've based a lot of my decisions in my life on fear. On what if? Not just spiritual decisions, but personal as well. To me, God wants me to realize that there is no fear in Him. Just a couple of lines above this verse is the simple yet prolific statement: God is love. So if we know that there's no fear in love, then there's no fear in God. No fear.

Here's the definition of fear from my 4th grader's Webster's Dictionary for Students:
fear n : a strong unpleasant feeling caused by being aware of danger or expecting something bad to happen

There'll be none of that in God. No unpleasantness, expectation of bad. In fact, after a quick Google search, I learned that the Bible tells us not to fear well over 300 times. That's a lot. And to me, that says that must be a pretty important part of living in the Lord. What I'm gleaming is that if I am connecting in with the love of God, trying to share that with others in whatever way I can, and attempting to follow His will for my path, then there should be no fear.

A life of no fear sounds great to me. Not of failure, of loss, of sickness, of pain. A life of no fear would mean that my life was so full of love that there just wasn't any room for fear. Because if I completely understand His love for me, then I can rest knowing He will take care of me. He will not allow me to be overcome.

No fear.