Monday, August 29, 2011

Blogger's Block

I have a roaring case of Blogger's block.

I can't say that I've ever been this blocked before.

Even as I try to write about not being able to write, I don't know what to write.

Why is that?

I always have something to say about everything, even when you'd rather not hear what I have to say.

Maybe tomorrow, lightening will strike the top of my head, and I'll have words in my brain to share.

Maybe not.

Until then...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A little on Leah...

In my quest to read the Old Testament, I am building my personal outline of who God is. I've always had a curious soul, one that has questioned things in my mind from a very early age. In my very young youth, I thought it was weird that we had to get dressed up to go to church; I didn't think God would care what we wore as long as we were there. This was back in the day when most women were frowned upon for wearing pants to church, and my daddy seldom crossed the threshold without a tie. I remember thinking at an early age that the days discussed in the creation story in Genesis were probably not days like we now experience at all. I felt like God wouldn't himself to any human-bred concept such as the 24 hour day. Basically, I found myself in a cycle of questioning things in my mind, not in a doubtful manner, but rather in a isn't there more sort of way. And that's how I approach the Scriptures...

Isn't there more? Isn't there a better way to look at things than how someone else has told me to look at them? Can't I find it for myself... form my own opinions, find my own relationship with my Maker, discover who He is in terms of how He wants to speak to me through His divine Word?

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as silver and search for it as hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:1-6

And so, as it's promised in Proverbs, God will give us what we need when we seek Him. He will help us understand when we approach the Scriptures. I'll admit that I don't get a lot of things I read, especially the first time, and that's why I read things again. And again. And sometimes again. Each time I read, something else is revealed. It's like a puzzle, yet more intricate than that of a three dimensional cardboard cutout. It's multidimensional, playing off my life and experiences, ministering to my need at the very moment I read a passage. That's why I adore reading my Bible so much, and my sincerest wish is that it would mean that much to anyone reading these words right now.

So that's why little phrases and words stick out to me. Like my reading yesterday, I saw this little obscure statement: When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb. (Gen.29:31)

I had this one little brain cell in the back of my mind that recalled the names Rachel and Leah, but I as I read the story through adult eyes, I realized, yet again, that I had been given the edited version (and for incredibly obvious reasons). The short version is that Jacob wanted to marry Rachel, Laban (Rachel's father) tricks Jacob by giving his eldest daughter, Leah, to him instead. When Jacob discovers the substitution, he works out a deal to have Rachel as well. Yep... married sisters. You can't make this stuff up, folks. In verse 30, the Scriptures say that "he loved Rachel more than Leah."

How sad. I think back to my high school years when I was jilted for another girl. That happened a lot in my dating experiences, so bringing those feelings back up is no problem. I would feel so less than, so unappealing, so unloved and unworthy. I can't imagine having to share my husband with another woman. I mean, sure, it would be nice to divvy up the household chores with another chick, but at the end of the day, I would not want to compete with another for my husband's attention. Now imagine it's your sister who has been the more beautiful of the two girls in the house (verse 17). It breaks my heart. So that's why when I read that God saw that Leah was not loved, it just really spoke to me.

God saw it. Then He did something for her. Wow.

So, here's my question, and maybe what I am trying to find out as I search the Scripture: does God do this today? Does He see our hurt, pain, trials, injustice and then touch our lives in some way? In a tangible way? For Leah, He opened her womb and she conceived Jacob's first child. It didn't make Jacob love her, and it really led to a strange baby-making competition between the two sisters that I won't get into, but God saw a hurt and did something to make Leah feel better. Does He do that for us today?

I think He does. I've always felt that way, but I am seeing now in these crazy, uncivilized stories with unspeakable characters that He's always done it, even to the undeserving. I would like to think of it as God's way of drawing us near in our state of feeling unloved (as with Leah) or unworthy. In the darkest parts of our life, perhaps God brings a tiny little speck of joy to show us He's still there. Like yesterday, my speck of joy was that one sentence that God saw Leah... my heart literally turned over when I read it. If He saw Leah, then He sees me.

He sees me. You are the God that sees me.

The past week or two have been tough for me. I can't tell you how many posts I've sat down to write and then deleted. How many times my husband has asked me, "Are you okay?" How many days I've just wanted to curl up in a ball and sleep the day away. God sees me. He's aware of my feelings, my battles, my worries. He cares about me as much as He cared for Leah. And I found that as comforting as a warm blanket fresh from the tumbling dryer.

Wrap yourself up in it, too, why don't you...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Just not morning people...

I am not a morning person. At all. I don't like to wake up, and when I finally do, I don't really like to talk to anyone for at least a solid hour or two. I can't say how old I was when I started disliking mornings, but I remember in high school carefully calculating how late I could sleep and still make it to school on time with my hair fixed. I was never late but was a master of the snooze button. It's an art, you know.

Fast forward twenty years and I have my own snoozer. She doesn't like mornings, and she's only SIX. God help me when her hormone levels teeter back and forth, up and down, and she stays up too late talking on the phone to some dreamy eyed teenage boy. I will need an IV drip of all sorts of medication. I am pretty sure that she'll be tardy for school once she's old enough to drive herself. I am pretty sure that our mornings will continue to grow more difficult by the year. And I am not looking forward to it.

This morning, she was tired. Then she was cold. Stomach hurt. Foot hurt when we put shoes on. Ear hurt when I accidentally bumped it with the comb during the detangling process. Dear me. There were tears and pleas to stay home, to go back to bed, to hold Piggie, her beloved sleep companion. Mornings like these rip my heart out, test my patience, make me want to scream and do a shot of whiskey before 8 AM...

It's tough, being a mom. Finding the balance of tenderness and firmness. Madalyn is one of those children that makes the line of balance even more blurred. I want to hug her and tell her that all will be fine, but then she just cries in my ear, which makes me want to pull my hair out. So, I softly reassure her that she will feel better once she gets to school and moves around a bit, and I dress her, tie her shoes, comb her hair, wipe the tears from her little face, and physically carry her to the car, wishing all the while that she wouldn't do this EVER.

What can I say? We're just not morning people, me and her. Though I've never done my mornings with alligator tears...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Scriptural Affirmations

Yesterday, I spent much of my morning searching the pages of both my Bibles. Looking. Reading. Finding the places I had highlighted or underlined. Gasping for encouragement as though it were oxygen.

I am a little sad right now. It's the weirdest kind of sad, though. One I've never quite felt before. Over the past year and a half, I have done a good job putting my mother's illness in its own box, labeling it, and keeping it contained. But now my mother's cancer doesn't fit in the box I originally placed it in, and I find myself searching, searching, searching for one big enough to put it in. What I am finding out is that it just doesn't fit in anything.

If you don't know my mother very well, then you don't know the full situation. Over the past several weeks, her overall quality of life has declined quite drastically. The shortness of breath, once blamed by the build up of fluid around her lungs, has gotten worse. Now that procedures have been done on both sides and the fluid is practically gone, there's not much of a medical reason for the shortness of breath she experiences now other than scar tissue from the two previous drain procedures. During her past two trips to the Kirklin Clinic, she's used a borrowed wheel chair to get around. She's stayed home for a solid week because of the shortness of breath. On top of that, her pain level has increased. She's not feeling well, and it hurts to see that.

So, that's what drags me down a little these days. Before, I knew my mom had cancer, but she still looked the same, acted the same, was able to do most everything she wanted to do. Now she struggles for a full breath of air and, though she very seldom complains about anything, I can sense her frustration.

So, I searched yesterday for some Scriptural affirmations. I needed them. I longed for them. I want so desperately to bathe myself in them... to feel their effects on my soul... to believe and experience them fully...

You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. Psalm 18:28-29
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever. The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace. Psalm 29:10-11
O LORD, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in times of distress. Isaiah 33:2
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:3-4
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. {Jesus} John 14:27

Yes. I want to bathe in these today. I want to feel them in my bones.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sadness has hovered over me today the way moisture sticks to air molecules here in the south. You can't see the humidity, but you can feel it, and it's thick.

Today was my mom's first round of chemo, and I have determined myself to be a part of her treatment. The last time she battled through chemo, Madalyn was still a tiny tot, David was in pre-school, and I was just plain unable to be there. This time, the situation is quite different. I have from 8 until 3 everyday, and if I can make a treatment to sit and visit with both my mom and dad, that's what I'll do. I had my own appointment to attend at 10:30, and then I headed straight over to the Kirklin Clinic, the eighth wonder of the world.

I found my mama in a room amidst dozens of patients all covered in the same beige hospital blankets. Some were sleeping, some snacking, some reading or listening to music. Some were alone. Maybe some had loved ones outside waiting on them, but I knew that not all of them did. Some were literally all alone. Some had hair. Some did not. There were men and women, all variations of skin color, and all shapes and sizes and ages. Cancer shows no favoritism.

The smile on my mom's face when she saw me made the battle through the traffic of crazy downtown Birmingham worth every second and muttered foul word. I will be there next time and each time after that. I guess I want to share the experience with her as much as I can. Since I can't take the cancer away from her, I'll sit beside her. We'll talk and laugh. We'll visit as though we're sitting in her living room on her comfy couch. Today, we shared a cookie. That, my friends, is about as normal as it gets for me and mom... enjoying chocolate.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband shared with me the story of a little girl, my daughter's age, battling cancer. It's the daughter of a women he knew through his old job, and he reminded me that we had met at a car function when we were both pregnant. I remembered the mom, and I found the support group on Facebook a few days later and began following her Caring Bridge site.

Little Lindsey met Jesus this afternoon. How sweet for her; how immensely painful for her parents and family. I can't wrap my brain around losing my precious Madalyn. I can't imagine not seeing her big brown eyes every morning, sleepy still stuck in the corners. I can't imagine not fighting with her over what she'll wear (or not wear) to school. I can't imagine not seeing her grow up, become a woman, and have a couple of kids of her own. Do you see why the sadness is the sticky air around me today...

I am asking anyone reading this post, where ever you may be, to pray for this family that just lost their Lindsey today. Let's just cover them in prayer. I don't really know them, but I feel so compelled to ask for prayers on their behalf.

You know, cancer really sucks, in case you haven't already figured that out.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

One of those mornings...

It's Wednesday. I've gotten up three straight mornings this week at 6:25. I'm tired. And I am having a morning. One of those mornings. And I know you know what I mean, so don't even pretend you don't have those mornings, too.

David has been looking for his MP3 player for the past two days. Mind you this is the MP3 player we purchased about three months ago to replace the one that fell out of his pocket onto the street in front of our house and was subsequently ridden over by an innumerable amount of cars. Needless to say, that one went kaput. Mom and Dad felt a little sorry for the boy as music is one of his most favoritist things in the whole wide world. I think David had about half of the amount for a snazzy new one, so we funded the rest.

So last night, when David told me that he thought he had it in his pocket on Saturday, you'll understand why my head began spinning and my eyes popped out of my head.

"Oh, so you put it in your pocket? Cause we've never done that before, huh David? We haven't learned that lesson yet..."

Crazy Mama favors the tone of sarcasm, if you haven't figured that out yet.

In my mind, the shiny new black Sony MP3 was in the gutter down the street in a million pieces. Boy was I wrong. This morning, I opened the washer to transfer the wet clothes into the dryer, and pulled out a long wire with little ear buds on the end. Please tell me NO. There it was, still black and definitely shiny {and clean}, but, as one might guess, not in working order.

Dear me.

I know this stuff is not the necessary stuff of life, but rather the marshmallow fluff on top, but it doesn't make the demise of the Sony Walkman any easier to swallow.

To add insult to injury, as I put the spoon to my mouth to taste my homemade healthy breakfast of brown sugar cinnamon oatmeal, I hit my front tooth just right and chipped it a bit. Not awfully, but just enough that I can feel it and know that it's there. Luckily, it's on the same tooth that already had a little chip on it from the nasty {not to mention incredibly intoxicated} old guy that was trying to dance with me waaaaaaaaaaay back in the day to some cover band in a disgusting bar and knocked my beer bottle into my tooth as I was trying to take a swig. See, those were the days that I had those kind of nights.

Anywho. That's my morning. Nothing to write a press release about, but things that require me to take long deep breaths and exhale with fervor.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Stains on the felt board...

In Sunday school as a child, we had a felt board. Please tell me I am not the only one who remembers such a remarkable invention as the felt board...

As the teacher recounted a story from the Bible that had been carefully edited to suit the age of the children listening, he or she would add little felt people and articles onto the board. Watching the story unfold in little felt pieces sort of illustrated the story in front of you in place of a movie or people acting it out. It was just a way to visually reinforce the lesson in a cost and time efficient manner.

I think I might enjoy playing with the felt board even now. I digress, though.

Anywho... in reading through Genesis the past week, I've noticed a few stories and characters we didn't cover on the felt board. Like, for instance, I don't remember the times Abraham lied about the identity of his wife. He told the folks in Egypt she was his sister, and the Pharaoh took Sarah in as his wife. It wasn't until the Lord inflicted disease upon Pharaoh's household that the lie was discovered (Gen. 12:10-20). Then Abraham did it again in another place, Gerar, telling everyone that Sarah was his sister, and Abimelech took her in. But in this account we learn that it was only a partial lie... how is it that that in all the times I sat through Sunday school I never learned that Sarah was Abraham's half sister? Abraham and Sarah shared the same father but not the same mother (Gen. 20:12).

How about this one...I never heard the story of Lot and his daughters after they fled the city of Sodom. Did you realize that once their mother turned to a pillar of salt, they got their father drunk and both had sex with him so that they could carry on their family name (Gen. 20:30-37)?

Did you realize that once Noah finally got out of that ark, the one he meticulously built with his own hands per precise instruction from God, he planted a vineyard, got drunk off its wine, and passed out naked in his tent (Gen. 9:20-27)?

I don't even want to get into the men of Sodom and what Lot said he'd do to appease them (Gen. 19:1-9)... did you realize he offered up his two virgin daughters to a mob of angry men? Did you see that one on the felt board? I certainly didn't.

Y'all... this is not righteous, holy stuff. This is dirty, barbaric, uncivilized behavior. And, to be honest, I don't understand it. I don't know why it stands out to me this time around in reading, but it does. The ugliness, the unspeakable sins that some of these characters were guilty of, just jumps out from the page at me during this trip through Genesis as though I have never read it before.

There must be something we can learn from these mistakes in the Old Testament. I think of all the weird things I have read, it was Abraham's lies that surprised me the most, especially considering they led to the turning over of his own wife to another man, not once, but twice. Yet the Lord found favor in him, making a covenant with him (Gen 17) and listening to his plea to find innocent men in Sodom before destroying the entire city (Gen 18:16-33). What this says to me is that the felt board character of Abraham, white beard flowing down to his chest, was not altogether accurate. He wasn't this stand-up guy of reverence and perfection. He lied. He gave into impatience and slept with his wife's maidservant to rush the plan of the Lord for an heir (Gen. 16:1-4). He doubted and even laughed at the Lord's promise of a son through Sarah (Gen 17:17). I am amazed at his imperfection and unrighteousness. But through his mistakes, he learned faith. Through his wrongs, he drew closer to this Lord who fulfilled His promises and maintained His covenant despite Abraham's screw ups.

Remember God's request for Abraham to sacrifice his promised son through Sarah? Remember the journey to the mountains, the binding of his son, Isaac, in preparation for sacrifice? As I read the familiar story this morning, it took on a different meaning in my heart. Because of what Abraham had been through with the Lord, the promises fulfilled despite his mistakes, he was able to live boldly through faith (Gen. 22:12).

Now I see the adult version of the felt board, the one with all the stains of sin. Aren't we all guilty of a few unmentionables ourselves? Don't we all have bits and pieces of our lives that aren't meant fit for children's story time? I do... and what the rest of the story will tell you is that for some crazy reason, the Lord has found favor in me, and He has spared me, saw me through it all. And now, as I read through His amazing Word, I find that through these trials comes strength of faith, appreciation, realization of His unending love. With all that comes this desire to do better, to follow in obedience, to learn the way He would have me go.

Oh the beauty of the Word...

Friday, August 12, 2011

The moments...

Certain moments in life freeze in time like an image captured to film. As the years flow on, my collection of still frames are tucked away and organized in my mind. Some are joyous, some hysterically funny, some precious, some sad.

I will never forget the day I got the phone call. It was late afternoon, and I stood at the dryer, large metal mouth open, heat still pouring out from the mound of fresh clothing inside, pulling out the items one by one and hanging them on sturdy white plastic hangers. I heard the ring, saw that it was my father's cell phone, not one that calls my house very often. I continued my chore as I answered a call that would change my life forever.

"Hello..."
"Tamara..."
"Hey, Daddy... what's going on?"
Pause. I could feel it over the phone. How that's possible, I will never understand, but my heart, it fell down to the floor, and he hadn't even uttered a single word yet.
"It's your mom... she..."
"Dad, what's going on?"
"She has cancer..."

That moment is frozen solid as an ice cube in my mind. I don't remember much after those few words. The 24 hours to follow was a time-warped blur of packing up my kids, driving to my mother's house, and taking her to an appointment the following day. The months that followed encompassed chemo, surgery, radiation. Watching someone suffer is one of the most helpless feelings I have ever experienced. If am suffering, I can compartmentalize it, make sense of it in my own way, and deal with it on my terms. But watching someone you love so dearly suffer... well, it's almost unbearable.

The moments. The call that it had returned. The call that it was spreading. The call that the treatment wasn't working. The call that chemo would start next week. The calls... there have been many. Many moments. More snapshots of my life to tuck away, to store in the midst of the normal everyday stuff. The conversations with my mother, the laughs, the visits eating Blizzards and shopping for shoes. It's so hard to reconcile between the two... they don't seem like they belong together.

Next week, my mother will begin a different phase of treatment, one her doctor has worked so hard to delay. Chemo. Her spirits are good. She is incredibly strong. We really weren't surprised. Over the last several weeks, she hadn't been feeling her normal self, and, as her doctor says, the way she feels says a lot. The scan yesterday revealed there had been some growth in her liver. How significant, I am not really sure. And, in all honesty, when fighting her type of cancer, hot spots in different areas of the body, I think it's almost irrelevant. One thing I've learned through this experience is patience. Oncologists have to be among the most intelligent people in the world, and they couple that with the amazing virtue of patience. They know what to try first, and then have the patience to give that treatment an opportunity to work. And that's what we'll do again. Try something new. Wait back and see. Pray and wait. Enjoy her and wait. Keep living and wait. The hard part's in the waiting.

I will close with my cancer verse. I've called it my cancer verse in my mind for quite some time now. There's so much talk among the media and the world about hope for the cure. My hope, however, doesn't lie in a cure, in a doctor, in a medicine, in this world or anything of it.
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

Amen.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

First Day


Dear Lord...

Thank you for these precious gifts, the ones that drive me to the brink of insanity some days and keep me from it on others. I look in their eyes and see the purity of life I once enjoyed. They make me long for a betterness of self. They bring me closer to You in ways nothing else on this strange earth can.

Protect them. Keep them safe from those that don't have the best of intentions. Circle them in Your presence.

My son, Lord, help him keep his mind focused. Help him believe in himself, that he knows simple math, that he can multiple and add and subtract without using his little fingers. Just help him learn that he can call on You for help even in his classroom, even for attention on a test or completing an assignment.

My daughter, Lord, help her shed her nervousness. Help her grow in her school activities, in writing and reading and math. Help her learn to never short change what she can do.

Their teachers, Lord, I thank You so much for them. Their jobs are so difficult. Give them the patience and the energy. Give them adequate words. Give them loving arms when they are needed. Give them peace.

In You Son's holy name, I pray...
Amen.

The God who sees me...

Oh, I've had a million blog posts running through my head at lightening speed over the past couple of days. Maybe I can begin to better collect my thoughts since the kids are BACK IN SCHOOL!!!! {Cue angelic music, choir singing Hallelujah!}

As I have posted about before, I am reading through the Old Testament. Most of it is a re-read. But this go-around, I am starting at the beginning and reading through all the way. No excuses. If I find myself getting confused or bored between the long lists of names and places I cannot pronounce, I will pray for divine intervention.

This morning, my reading picked up with Abram. I remember learning about Abram in Sunday school, his white beard down to his chest, and his poor plumpy wife, Sarai, who was barren. Here's a funny... when you're a kid, and you don't quite understand what certain words (like barren) mean anyway, you immediately equate them to something you do know. My grandparents had a dog named Barron, different spelling, of course, but in 2nd grade, I can't say that I knew that. I knew hearing the word and the story that barren was negative, and it meant she couldn't have children, which was so sad. To this day, I think about that dog when I see the term in the Bible, because we all know it's not a term used anymore. Anywho... that was completely off the subject, but I felt the need to share what I was thinking about in Sunday school when the teachers were adding Sarai to the felt board. I was thinking about that dog at my grandparent's lake cabin.

So I got to the point in the story when Sarai became anxious and impatient. I assume that's what she was... the Lord had promised Abram that he would be the father of many nations, that his descendants would be like the number of stars in the sky. Yet Sarai still had no baby to hold. Wow... how many women today feel like that as well. They pray and wait and pray and wait, and yet still no baby. So, Sarai went to her husband and said she'd give her maidservant, Hagar, over to him in hopes of yielding a descendant.

See... here's where I think the Old Testament is hard to take sometimes. These folks lived a wee bit differently than this Crazy Mama. I won't be handing over any women of any kind to my husband! But I know that in Old Testament Times, it was not uncommon for men to have multiple wives. So I just have to weed through all the uncivilized, barbaric types of behavior of gleam from it any tidbit of wisdom that I can. And in the midst of this odd tale of wife handing over another woman to sleep with her husband in order to rush the fulfillment of God's promise comes one of the most beautiful descriptions of God I have ever read in my life.

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." Genesis 16:13

Wow. Here's what happened to make her say that, though. So Hagar became pregnant, and when it was known that she carried Abram's child, it created hostility between the two women. In fact, Sarai was so ugly to Hagar that she ran away. The angel of the Lord found Hagar, questioned her, and told her to go back to her mistress and submit to her. The angel also promised that her descendants would be too numerous to count. The angel's proclamation brings about Hagar's description of God.

The One who sees me. Don't we all want to be seen? And really seen, for who we are, for what we are inside. For how far we've come, not where we've been. For our heart, not for our mistakes. For our promise and identity in the Lord, not for the lies of Evil One of which we've fallen prey. God is the One who sees me. And that, my friends, is one of the most beautiful names of the Lord I've heard.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Thinking on Noah...

The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. Genesis 6:5-6

I know how it feels when my children say wretched things to me. Just a couple of weeks ago, my dearest daughter informed me that she didn't like me or even love me. Cognitively, I know she doesn't mean it. But the mom in my heart thinks, "how can she say that to me after all I have done for her?"

Does God think anything less when we sin, rebel, or make just plain stupid choices? I think not. He knows our heart, but it doesn't make our shortcomings any less painful to the Father. As I read the above verse, I tried to push the age-old story into modern times. I often do that with the Scriptures. Maybe some consider it blasphemous, but I need to bring it forward to rationalize it and make it applicable to my life. I ask myself, "What can I compare this to in our society? How can I make this relevant to my life?" Sometimes, the little side notes in my Bible are helpful. I do seek the advice of a good concordance (a gift from my dad when he realized I had a love of reading the Bible similar to his). But many times, as I am reading and thinking, thoughts are streaming, ideas and symbolism and parallels. The only explanation I have is that the Spirit is truly interceding for me and helping me understand.

As I read the story of Noah this morning, a story we have all no doubt heard numerous times whether raised in a church or not, I began to see a lesson in it for people of all times. A command, if you will, for generations until the end of time. Build an ark.

I am quite envious of Noah's relationship with God. Aren't you? He's singled out of all the humans on the earth as the only man who deserved to live. He is described in Genesis as being a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God (6:9). I don't take this to mean that he was perfect, rather that he made wise choices, that he held honorable relationships with his fellow man, and that he had a solid relationship with God. Noah stood out in a land full of selfish men with evil intentions, and God hand picks Noah and subsequently his family to continue life on earth after the flood, to be the single bloodline for generations to come.

One other point I am quite envious of is the way God directly reveals to Noah exact directions of what he's supposed to do in building his ark. He gives him measurements and specific type of wood. As I read, I found myself wishing God would talk directly to me, giving me specific instructions for my life... but wait. He already has, and I was in the midst of it at that very moment. His Holy Word.

So make yourself an ark... (6:14)

Build an ark. A structure of protection for yourself and your family. Build it to the specifications of God's Word. Build a faith strong enough to keep you afloat in the rainiest of seasons, as the waters rise over the solid earthly mountains. Do it despite the conditions of the world around you. Build your ark. By your own hands and work will it be prepared. The energy and tools will be provided. And because of your solid work and faith, you will be protected and shielded from the rain and flood waters.

In our modern times, more than ever probably, the rain falls around our souls and the waters rise. We must have something to keep us afloat, right? The story of Noah has me thinking about what I am building my ark with, what kinds of materials, what widths and lengths and heights. Will it sustain me? But this is the conclusion I have drawn about Noah's ark... it couldn't have been perfect. There had never been such a thing built before as there had never been a use for such a structure. But the Lord made a covenant of protection with him, and the Lord never backs out of any promise. I love that. Because of Noah's righteousness, firm walk with God, and direct obedience in building a crazy wooden structure, he was saved along with his family.

Reminds me of a verse in Isaiah. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. (43:2)

One final thought that will haunt me about Noah for the weeks to come... I ask myself, if God were to examine the world today, would he find me favorable? If he were to pick one person to carry out the bloodline of the entire human race, would it be me? Yikes.




Saturday, August 6, 2011

Showcase!

My little one. My daughter. Miss Personality, Independent, Live Out Loud. She's a tough one, and I don't always mean that in a negative way.

She's that wrapped box, beautiful vivid paper on the outside. And just when you get it unwrapped and opened, you find another one, just as skillfully and beautifully wrapped, perfectly placed to fit down inside. The older she gets, the more pieces of her I discover. It's like watching one of those time sped transformations on TV where your eyes get to catch every little change and bit of growth in a project right before your eyes. That's my Madalyn.

She's complex. And that's the part of her that I totally get. She's this wide open, vivacious girl UNTIL... until she has a crowd. One would think within her comfort zones that she seeks a crowd, but that's not the case at all. She likes comfort, small circles, a few eyes. She doesn't feel the need to steal the show ~ she'd rather BE the show within her little life. That, my friends, she gets from her mother. And that was something I have only recently discovered.

This year, she's a cheerleader for our local PeeWee football. Practice began this week with a five day cheer "camp" at the high school. All the high school cheerleaders ~ freshman, JV, and varsity squads ~ taught the girls two chants, two cheers, and a dance. Madalyn had a ball, especially considering we knew one of the cheerleaders helping her group. She came home each night all abuzz. But Friday loomed... Showcase Night for parents and family to come and see what the girls had learned all week.

"But I wanna skip it... I'm too tired."
"Madalyn... this is part of being a cheerleader. You are a part of a team now..."
"I don't wanna go back to that place..."
"You'll do fine. We are NOT skipping it."
"I just don't wanna do it in front of the moms and dads."
"Then how do you think you're gonna be a cheerleader, Madalyn? That's what you do ~ you cheer. In front of people."
"But my tummy hurts."
"Oh, so now your tummy hurts. You're tired, tummy hurts, and you don't wanna go back to that place. And you are NOT skipping it."
"I'm scared."

She was terrified. Absolutely anxiety ridden about cheering in front of people. She pulled out every stop in her arsenal, and I had a comeback for each one. I explained it was perfectly normal to be a little nervous, but that I was certain she would do just fine. One of her sponsors had just told me the night before that she was doing really well and knew all the cheers. But there was no rationalizing with the looming nervousness brewing in her blood, and I finally ended it with, "You will get out there and do it, and once you're done, you will be so proud of yourself. I promise."

When her group took center of the gym floor, my heart just ached for her. She was on the back row on the very end, and her big brown eyes were all I could see on her face as she stood playing with her fingers. That's what she does when she's nervous... fidgets with her fingers. When she's at home, she still reaches for her blankie, a soft cotton receiving blanket she got when she was born. She runs her fingers along the edge until she finds the good spot, and then her heart settles a bit. Why a certain spot rubbing against her tiny little fingers brings her peace, I will never understand. But it does. When the blanket is absent, she fiddles with her fingers searching that same sense of contentment that the soft tee shirt fabric brings her. I can't say if she ever found it last night; the first cheer was called, and she did all the motions. In fact, she did pretty good, I would say, especially considering she made every excuse her little brain could think of to get out of going.

I hope she learns that if she faces these anxieties head on, it will make her stronger. It's something I struggled with as a child and on into adulthood. It's paralyzing at times. And that is the absolute last feeling I ever want either one of my kids to feel is paralyzed. By anything.

By the way... I totally have a cheerleader in my house now. Go Warriors!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

In the beginning...

In the beginning... that's exactly where I've decided to go. Back to the beginning of it all. Chapter one, verse one.

God created the heavens and the earth.

As anyone who visits this blog on a regular basis may know, I am a bit all over the place. Lamentations, Romans, Ephesians, Psalms. God bless me, I have very little direction in my search of understanding in the Scriptures. On a whim I will decide to read or reread this book or that one. When I was pregnant with Madalyn, I set out to read the Old Testament from start to finish. I chickened out round about at Deuteronomy. Then I went into my hunt and peck mode... picking and choosing according to length of book and number of crazy names I can't pronounce on a page. Now that I have a few years of age on me, I think I can handle the challenge. So I am staring it again at the beginning.

There's this one thing I noticed about a year ago when reading through the story of creation and the fall of man for some now un-remembered purpose. I got through the familiar tale... all the days of creation, the man, the woman from the rib, the tree they shouldn't touch, that darned serpent, and then the sin, the very first sin of mankind. I realized that the outline of the battle is the same throughout time...

~ Satan lies, and his one desire is to make us doubt God and His plan for our life.
~ We, therefore, question ourselves and God.
~ We screw up. It's called sin.
~ The sin separates us from God; we run, we hide, we are ashamed.

In my mind, this is where the outline of the fall ended after every sin. But it's not, and I wished I had realized that a long time ago. In chapter 3, verse 9 of Genesis, it says, "But the LORD God called to man..." God still calls out to us even after our sin. God still draws us near. Even though we've messed things up, He wants to commune with us. I love that thought. And I wish I had read that part of the story in my childhood.

But it doesn't stop there. My favorite verse in Genesis 3 is verse 21.
The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

In case your brain has forgotten, God has just rendered His punishment to Adam and Eve; they will have to leave the Garden of Eden and work the land for their food. But God doesn't just push them out of the gate wearing nothing but their fig leaves. He made them clothing. He helped them. He covered their bodies in a more fitting and appropriate way for their new life outside the Garden. The first time I saw this verse, my heart swelled. Even after our sin, God longs to take care of us. This God of the Old Testament, the one that killed people and sent plagues on entire groups of people, the God of anger and revenge that I remember... well, I didn't have the whole picture back then of God, so now I find myself filling in the missing pieces.

As I read the story of Cain this morning, I was amazed to find the same protecting nature of God. We all know that Cain killed his own brother out of jealousy. I remembered that he was sent out to another land as punishment for his sin. But what was revealed to me this morning was that Cain expressed his fear that he would be killed to God. In response, God placed a mark on him so that no one would kill him. In other words, God listened to Cain's fear, and He responded with a method of protection. God placed a mark of protection on a man who just killed his own brother.

I am really looking forward to my reading through the Old Testament this time. I am approaching it in terms of getting to know God. Not the God I was taught in Sunday School. Not the felt board version, snippets of stories along the way. I want to know it all. The envy, the battle for His people that He fought throughout the books. The love and protection. The depth, the omnipotence, the Deity that was from the very beginning. I look forward to drawing closer.

You'll be along for the ride. So prepare yourselves for posts about these little details that mean something to me. They may or may not speak to you, and that's okay. But maybe we can all learn more about our Creator together from the very beginning.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The grass is greener...


The grass is greener in every one else's yard these days. Like literally. My front yard looks awful! We have some areas that have odd inclines, and I have noticed quite a bit of soil erosion over the past couple of years. But I think the condition right now is from something more than that.

I have noticed these weird little shells all over the bare areas of the yard:

I see them hind side (the open prongy little side) sticking up from the soil, and they are empty. So it tells me that some equally nasty little wormy thing probably hatches from it. But I don't see any wormy things in the grass or on the ground.

I've googled all possible combinations of words, including nasty little wormy things, and the only satisfactory answer I have is that they may possibly house some sort of beetle larvae. But I am not 100% sure. So... anyone out there have a clue what this odd looking thing is? Just wondering if anyone in the blogosphere could help me out here!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Just when you think...

Just when you think your kids are on your last nerve, one of them spills a huge cup of water right where your cell phone that's not up for upgrade until the 22nd of this very month.

Yep. In three short weeks, I can get a new phone at a discounted price, but not tomorrow. Good news is that the phone still works. Only problem is that when I text certain letters, it types in a cryptic code with the letter at the end of it. For example, an "e" may look more like j3hu81e. That may be a wee bit confusing even to the sharpest tool in the shed, so it completely disrupts my ability to communicate quickly and effectively via text.

The other child has driven me completely nuts for the past 36 hours with his obsession of building a tree fort. When I think tree fort, I think something in which one could climb up into a tree and find refuge. David's notion of a tree fort is anything built onto the trunk of a tree with scrap material and twigs. Yesterday's architectural feat included the use of duct tape ~ literally, the shiny silver tape used on air conditioning duct work. Today's involved the use of black and red spray paint. I have no words about it really other than to say that he spends more time fulfilling these ridiculous notions than in making sure his room is clean.

I am a frustrated mama right now. It's hot. I am tired of the neighborhood children. I am tired of my own children. I am tired of every single moment of every day revolving solely around what all the children want to do. Like today, for instance... it's almost 4 and I haven't had a chance to have my shower yet. With David in and out, his friends in and out, Madalyn in and out, I can't have a shower. And they don't have a clue, don't care the inconvenience it puts me in and are actually perturbed with me when I dare ask them to send their friends home so I can have my daily cleansing time.

Did I mention that I was ready for school to start back?

Good news is this... in the midst of writing this brilliant dissertation on my aggravation, I turned off my phone, took out the battery, placed it back in, powered up, and it appears to be working just fine. Silver linings. Maybe I will actually like the children by sundown. Maybe.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Summer Frustration... in a single-serving size

There are no Caprisuns in my refrigerator. You will not find any canned Cokes, Sprites, or even Publix brand sodas that I ordinarily keep on hand for the kids. This summer has been the season of less around here... keeping on hand bare minimum items needed for daily function.

The reason is two fold. On one hand, we haven't had the money to buy all the extra things that my kids enjoy as treats. Between baseball and the down market, we haven't been swimming in extra money around here! And that has left the pantry a little more bare than usual ~ not empty, just not over-flowing like my children have grown so accustomed to in their home! The other reason is a simple law that proves itself true: if it's there, they will eat/drink it ALL. When your house becomes a bubbly place of social activity (for instance, swimming hole of the neighborhood), whatever is there will be devoured no matter where you try to hide things.

It's not that I don't want to spread the love around or share with others, but it's difficult to watch this generation of overly sugared, prepackaged children. They don't understand the notion of, "Gee, I'm thirsty... let me grab a cup, put some ice in the bottom if it, and turn on the faucet." They believe everything good (including water) must come in a package, whether that be in a bottle, pouch, or aluminum can. I can remember the day when a Coke was special, not expected. Water almost always came out of the faucet in the kitchen; when it didn't, it came form the hose in the yard. We ate at meal times. If I were really hungry, a real treat was a peanut butter spoon, maybe even a few crackers to go along with it. We didn't just stick our noses in the pantry or fridge at all hours of the day.

I know I can't change the way the world operates now, but I find myself so frustrated with the general lack of appreciation of my very own kids. How they'll open a box of cereal and walk around with it. How I bought a box of Nilla Wafers on Friday, and they were gone by early afternoon yesterday. It's tough right now, and making it even tougher on me is this perception that I should feed (literally and figuratively) their need for convenience.

I feel like I am ranting a little here, but I have no doubt it will be understood by many.

So what's a Crazy Mama to do? I don't know... I honestly don't know. I am trying to make wiser purchases at the grocery store, tell my kids no sometimes on snacks, and generally just reduce their consumption. But it's tough, incredibly difficult, to change the way I discipline them and to reshape their own thoughts about what they are entitled to around here. I guess I'll be in constant prayerful consideration on the matter... add another thing to pray about. It's an ever-growing list!