Monday, December 20, 2010

Convictions and Controversy (Part 4)

The UPS man came today.  To deliver the girls' Christmas gift from their Grandfather.

The delivery guy said to me apologetically "It has what it "is" labeled on the box..... I'm sorry...... "
To which I replied "Oh, that's fine!!!  Not a problem at all."
His response was that of obvious relief- the poor guy may as well have wiped the sweat off his brow,
"Ya.  It's really tough being Santa Claus right now...."
( I hear ya, buddy!)

Well? This is the final installment of "Convictions and Controversy".  Here's the whole reason I started this set:

Santa doesn't come to our house; and our girls know it.
We've told them the "truth" from the get go.   Ok.  Not really.  We never told them that Santa wasn't the bringer of gifts at Christmas time.  We simply told them that God had blessed Mommy and Daddy with the ability to get gifts for them on Jesus' birthday- as a way to remember the amazing gift that God gave us... His son.

Here we are- the "ab"norm- on yet another subject, and up until this Christmas season- we've only had to fend for our right to "teach our kids what we want to teach them" among our family members.

Up until THIS Christmas season, our 5 year old Zoe wasn't in a kindergarten class full of Santa Clause believing peers, and up until THIS Christmas Season- we didn't realize just how strong minded our amazing little girl really was on  the subject of "truth" and "not the truth".

Zoe's class began prepping for their Holiday Cheer and they were all talking about Santa. Apparently our daughter decided that they were all crazed loons for believing that Santa was the bringer of their Christmas gifts,  and she wanted to remedy their illusions by announcing what all parents fear for their children to hear:
 "Santa. Is. Not. REAL!!!"

The email I received from her teacher went like this:

Mrs. Anderson,

I have something that I wanted to address with you. I know this can be a very tough subject, but I hope for your understanding. 

Today we began doing special activities with the students for the holidays and Zoe was very adamant to announce that Santa is not real. I asked her to please keep comments like that to herself but as the day progressed she continued to announce that he is just a made up person. 

By no means am I asking for Zoe to believe or for your family to believe a certain way, but there are so many students that do whole heartedly believe in Santa Clause and are devastated at this age when someone announces something like that. 

Could you help me with talking with her about this subject? I respect everyone’s beliefs when it comes to the holidays and find the importance of all of them with every family. However I would just like for Zoe to be able to enjoy these activities with the class without upsetting others. I really hope that you understand. Thank you so much."

I love this teacher.  She's a perfect match for our Zoe.  And because Zoe loves her so much, this was, indeed, a tough subject.  Not because we didn't agree that Zoe could keep her "Santa Truth" to herself, but because Zoe (I feel the need to repeat- age 5) was NOT okay with keeping the truth to herself.

My (careful) response was this:

" I sincerely appreciate and respect your concern.  Per Zoe's strong will and spunk, I'm not surprised at all that she is announcing "what she knows".   Zoe has a "black and white" personality.  She has no gray area.  

It's such a tough subject; we have talked to her about how other kids really like to believe in Santa- and that it makes other kids sad when she tells them that Santa isn't real.  We've asked her to make better word choices such as "I believe that Jesus is the reason for Christmas" and we've asked her to leave the part about Santa not being real out of her words.

We told her the story of the real St. Nicholas; and Lord have mercy, her questions were slightly tough.  She asked if he was 'dead now' and we said "Well, he lived a long time ago, but he's not alive anymore'.  And now- she's saying that Santa is dead.   It went from bad to worse.

Sigh.  I don't quite know how to handle this.  She believes what she believes and she says exactly what's on her mind.  She's not trying to be mean or disrespectful.  It's just a part of her personality and the temperament that's ingrained in her.  

When she was 3 years old her doctor asked her if she was ready for Santa Clause to come and bring her presents, and she didn't even blink before she announced matter-of-factly 
"Nope.  Santa isn't the reason for Christmas.  It's because of Jesus."  

One thing I can't do is ask her to keep quiet about what she believes; I can ask her to make better word choices as to not hurt other people's feelings.  I've went over it and over it, and I can't figure out another way to remedy the situation without going against what we hope to teach Zoe; to say the Truth, to speak up about what she believes in.

She was pretty emotional about it when I talked to her; she said it "wasn't right because Santa is not real and everyone keeps saying he is"- and she was pretty upset when she said,  "My teacher keeps saying that Santa is real when he's really not".

I think another idea would be for you to take her aside and make it a "big secret".  Maybe you can explain to her that you know that Santa isn't real, and she believes that Santa isn't real- and that's okay- but that you and her need to have it be a big secret from the kids that believe Santa is real because they all like to be surprised on Christmas day....   or something to that effect.

Her teachers response went like this:

pulled Zoe to talk to her this afternoon. 

I told her how much of a big girl she was to understand the true meaning of Christmas. 
I then told her how much I would love for her to share what she knows about the true meaning of Christmas with the students.
 I then told her that so many people her age truly believe that Santa is real. She immediately said “but he isn’t.” 
I told her that was true but we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings by telling them that he is not.

 I said she was such a big girl to understand but that others didn’t quite understand yet. I did tell her that it was our secret and that we did not want to hurt anyone by saying those things. 

She then asked if Mrs. H knew that he was not real. I told her that she knew and that it would be ok for her to talk about it with her as well. She seemed very understanding, and I really feel like everything has been taken care of. Let me know if she has anything to say this afternoon. Thanks!

And the remedy of all remedies occurred after this amazing teacher took the time to work with our precious daughter to ensure that she was comfortable, and secure- despite her controversial beliefs!!!

This was NOT the norm in these types of situations.  Most families get angry and offended when a child announces what "they know" about Santa.  My youngest sister, as a matter of fact- who's baby is 9 months old,  contacted me about the situation and clearly announced that
"If your kids tell my daughter that Santa isn't real- we're going to have a big problem.....".

Ouch.  That hurt. (And my sister and I are close, too!)
But it's not the first time a family member got upset regarding what we teach our children.
And the sting of it didn't burn for very long.

It's not easy to live by what you believe.

We don't think it's necessarily BAD to do Santa.  It was just our personal conviction NOT to.  Our choices were based on a thought process that said this:

We want our children to believe that everything we teach them is The Truth.  We teach them about a Living God, and a Savior, and we tell them Bible stories, and we explain that it's "real".
We wanted to stick to a "The Truth Only" path.  So that later in life- there isn't a question about what was 'real' and what was 'not'.

Interestingly, our 7 year old has decided that she "wants to believe that Santa is real...." and pretend like he comes down the chimney and brings her presents.  


We said "sure" to her desire to pretend, with a reminder that Santa was "actually really truly NOT REAL".... and a bit of confusion in our self about whether it was "ok" to pretend or not.

She asked us if it would make God sad for her to pretend, and I said to her with complete humility
"Baby, I have no idea.  Let's just pray about it- and if you feel like it's okay to pretend, then I think it'll be fine..."

We don't have all the answers.  That's WHY we have to follow our convictions.

Controversial or NOT.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Convictions and Controversy (Part 3)

We have some fine-lined convictions concerning our children and their well being.  Particularly, to do with health- we've gotten a lot of grief.  Specifically- on the subject of vaccinations.

Vaccinations.  Ewww.  What a touchy subject.  
(Almost as touchy as Santa Claus- but we'll get to that soon enough).

First born children are, for lack of a better term, sort of the guinea pigs.  We try and fail and tweek and readjust parental structures based off of Numero Uno, don't we?  

In our case, I was 22 when our first born daughter graced the world with her sweet, tender presence.  I questioned no one, and thought reading "up" on parenting was not a necessity.  I mean? I was born to have babies- I'd figure it out, right?!  


Hah! Hah!

We did all the things our doctors told us to do; them being the experts and all.... obeying their instruction wasn't an option- was it?

I had a friend that was deeply involved in natural health and wellness, and didn't vaccinate her newborn.
I thought she was a nut-case!!  I judged her motives and intellect.  I remember thinking to myself (as I was holding my 9 month old on my hip) "Wow.  She'll find out how wrong she is when it's too late!" 
Secretly I'm squeezing my daughter a bit closer to me, proud of our decision to parent her the right way, and choosing to be intelligent parents and giving her all of her vaccinations!

3 months and hours upon hours of research later, and I am finding myself at our pediatricians office explaining to him why it is that we are choosing not to allow them to give our daughter vaccinations from that point on.  

I won't get into the "why" we came to our decision.  Honestly, it's not important to touch on that. I'm not an educator, and this isn't a soap box I'm willing to chisel out and stand atop just yet.

There are books, and articles, and internet searches at the tips of all of our fingers- and anyone who'd like to look into whether vaccinations are right for their family have this available to them.  Aside from that- my brain lost it's sponge soaking ability long, long ago; I read, and then I conclude- but afterward forget what brought me to said conclusion, marking my ability to teach anyone, anything slim to none unless I have carefully taken notes and Google in front of my face.  

We simply made a personal decision, after educating ourself fully on the subject.... When I say fully, I mean fully.  I read both "sides of the story".  I compared the benefits vs. the risk, I read articles of those that were convinced that vaccination was 100% right-to-do, and articles of those that were 100% convinced that vaccinations should NEVER be given.  I found a happy middle ground, and settled into it.
(Funny enough- I started out my "research" to prove my friend wrong in her personal decision to decline vaccinations.)

So we do not vaccinate; and that's that.....   we sign our "religious" waiver for the school's records, and we're good to go.  No issues.

As a very important side note: 
One fear that I had when facing the decision as to whether I would be a working mom or a stay at home mom was insurance, (or the lack of).  We took a dive into faith when we decided that I would be a stay-at-home mommy to our children, but not with our prayer and a boat load of "what if's".  Regarding insurance, I believe we were promised supernatural health when we submitted to my being a stay at home mom. 

I heard the Lord say it loud and clear in my spirit, and so it was, and so it is. That's what I like to call
 "Crazy Faith".  You tell people this sort of thing, and they think you're super-crazy.

Our girls are, indeed,  supernaturally healthy.  I don't mean to say that none of them never experience a common cold, or a stomach virus, or the like.  What I do mean to say is that we can accept the promise to their supernatural health, but understand that with God's promises- our efforts are also required!
We don't assume that if we were to feed our  kids McDonald's everyday, and sugar for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack, that we'd reap the rewards of health..... I do, however- assume that if we use wisdom and allow God to direct us in our convictions- that we will reap those  rewards.  And we surely have!!!

Wisdom plays a huge role in following our convictions.  If small pox were to become an epidemic- I wouldn't stand firm on our decision without first seeking out wisdom.  I'd study the disease, I'd research everything available to be researched, I'd pray, and then we would discern the right choice for our family.

Quacky or Cookey, or Looney or Weirdo are all great words to peg on us, as a family, regarding many of our convictions.  We make choices very far away from the world's standards.  But we are totally OKay with it.  We know what's right for us.  

I want to encourage every one and say again:
It really is OK to swim upstream,  to go against the flow..... to be OURSELVES....
None of us are the same as each other; nor should we hope to be.
Some of us are heads, some of us are arms, some are legs, or feet, or big toes......
We aren't designed to conform; we weren't created to be the same.  We're all made unique!  

We're ALL weird!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Convictions and Controversy (Part 2)

Before our first child was born, we decided firmly on these 2 things: 

A. Our child will NEVER go to public school.
B. We will ALWAYS keep our kids in church.


Never say never, my friend.  

Our daughters are prospering in their little kindergarten and second grade classrooms, in this very moment, as I type out this blog.  We worked so hard, and tried and tried to make it possible to keep them out of the public school system; but finances and frazzling of my brain redirected our convictions when private school and home school were erased from our "options" list for this school  year.
God has bigger plans than ours.  And that's just how it works.  One day- I hope- I'll bring them back into our safe little nest, and I'll home school them sans frazzling and frying of my brain.  But? For now? I'm positively certain that they are exactly where the Lord would have them be.


We took a little over a year "off" from church.  Worst year of our life, to say the least.  Despite our decision to ALWAYS keep our kids in church- we were backed into a season of "anti-church" when we started seeing through a scratched up window; that window allowed us to peer into just how messed up church and the people that go there can be; ourselves were NOT excluded in the factor of 'messed up people in a messed up church', either.  We needed to step back; and it worked out for the greater growth of our spiritual lives that we did.  Realizing that nobody had anything together, and not putting any person on a pedastool, despite appearances of righteousness.... now we're looking through a pane-less window (or so it seems).

I WILL NOT.... unless I SHOULD

Conviction to keep our kids out of the public school system lead to many many long conversations defending our choice for educating our daughters.   It was a battle on top of a battle.  I second guessed myself more often than not; but stuck to it......... until the glorious day that God released us from it.  

Even after He released me to move into a new direction with school, I second guessed myself.   The Lord removed every option for education aside from public school.  He made it clear:
 "This is what you need to do right now."  I still doubted, and questioned, and schemed and planned to figure out a way to keep them out of public school.  "Maybe there's another way?  Surely there's something else we could do?"  I was tormented and pained when the day came that I registered our daughters for school.  I cried and cried and met frustration after frustration, but I did it anyway.
It wasn't until after registration, and after we met their teachers, that I found relief from the boulder that seemed to be weighing down my shoulders!

Convictions to keep our kids in church were layed aside when (I believe) God allowed us to be removed from that atmosphere to gain perspective.  He called us to go to church, and taught us why corporate worship was so very important; and then He removed us from church- and taught us why keeping our eyes on HIM, and only Him when we were in search of TRUTH is so important.
"Men will fail you.  But I will never leave you, or forsake you!"  (the Bible)

In conclusion to part 2, sticking to a conviction- whether it be challenging or not- should NOT be an option. 

Obedience brings more relief than continuing on with 'our own' plans. 
Obedience brings relief.  AFTERwards.  Obey first......  Relief later.  

  (Read 2 Kings 5:1-15)
*The king had leprosy, and was instructed by the prophet to receive his healing by dipping into the Jordan river 7 times.  
It wasn't the WATER that healed the king, it was his obedient act!*

God instills convictions inside our hearts for a purpose.  He's an all knowing God- and He'll speak to us and lay out a guideline for us to go by- if we'll listen to HIM.  He determined a path for us to take; but that doesn't mean that He will have us to stay on that exact path forever.  If we believe that He's the navigator, we should also understand that HE may tell us to do a turn here, or take a back road there.  He knows exactly what each path has in store for us, and HIS PLANS (paths) are much greater than our own!  

I'm thankful and humbled that He chooses to speak to us regarding our life walk.  
WE don't always listen, but He is, in fact- ALWAYS directing us.  

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Convictions and Controversy (Part 1)

I'll certainly have to divide this out into parts; it's a long story to say the least.

In the beginning, God created the Earth.... and so on and so forth, and now here we are.
And 7 years ago when our first born was... um.... born, my husband (the baby-daddy) and I talked about all the things we would and wouldn't and should and shouldn't do.

Like? "We will never let our kids throw tantrums in public like that!!!"

(our 3rd born,  little Leah, age 2)

And: "We will make sure our kids are always properly dressed."

(Zoe, age 5.  Yes, those are training pants on her head.  Leah, age 2.  That's right.  She's not even wearing any clothes!)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sweetness in the Mire

Tuesday morning, my husband drove our 5 and 7 year old to school; and by some miracle, our 3 year old decided to take an extra long snooze break as she slept in past her normal 7 AM rise and shine.  Incredibly, by 8:45 sweet girl was still snoring when I went upstairs to check on her.

Our girls share a room, and just beside Leah's bed- Zoe's twin bottom bunk bed seemed to be calling my name.  It's soft sheet, fluffy down pillow, and cozy down comforter were lying there looking more comfortable than anything I'd ever seen.  I decided that since Leah was sure to wake up at any moment, I'd just take a quick little nap in Zoe's bed.  This way- when Leah woke up, she'd see my snoozing right beside her, and wake me up.

And  certainly- she woke up to see me snoozing; but she woke me up in the most unconventional and absolute sweetest way!!
My eyes cracked open to see the cutest curly-headed 3 year old girl sitting on the edge of her bed, staring at her mommy, making a 'kiss-kiss' sound with her lips.  When I looked at her, she said with an excited grin,  "Mommy!!!  I woked you up by doing THIS (kiss-kiss-kiss) sound!!!  Heee heeeee heeee!"

I must have been more tired than I realized, because somehow- despite the cuteness- I closed my eyes again and fell back to sleep.  The next time I opened my eyes, Leah was sitting on the bed with me, half beside me, half on top of me, and she was attempting to shove a chocolate chip cookie in my mouth.  I look up to her expectant face as she said "Mommy!!!  I broughted you a cookie to eat!  It's really yummy!"

When it's all grim and gray and dreary,  and the "life-is-hard-reaper" is towering over my shoulder beating me down, the easiest thing to do is crawl into bed, cover my head up, and ignore it all.  Easy or not- I've never had the option to do that.  My 3 girls "force" me to keep the momentum up.  Having to take care of their needs trumps any desire I have to give up.  For that, I am ever thankful.

At this point, I'm gonna be honest, and bare "the life is crazy tough" right now stuff.   Breaking it down with out too many details- I'll give a quick example: 

Finances are kah-put.  Being in the construction/repair industry- ya- in this economy,  'nuff said.  
Mis-managing our week-to-week paycheck is an attribution, as well.  There are times we really should not eat out, or joy-ride around town..... but we do it anyway. Unwise.

We've created a budget, and the budget would work- if we'd just suck it up and stick to it.  Budget (the lack of) aside, another spin out in our bank account happens when there isn't any work for Joshua to do- staying home, sans pay, is especially painful on our pocket book.

With Thanksgiving being hosted at our house this year, an extra large chunk of dough moves itself down our belly's, inside the same week that Joshua is only able to work for 2 days.  Ouch! Ouch!  OUCH!

Monday night this week my van (our only family vehicle) randomly quits working just down the road from our house on my way to the grocery store.  Plans that I had to attend a bible study that night, take our 3 year old to her sweet little class the next day, and volunteer in my 7 year olds classroom that morning are all immediately canceled.  

It's almost December, which means we should be prepping to pay our Property Taxes, and making plans to buy Christmas gifts.

Our family life, specifically our marriage, has been in a "growing" process- trying to overcome certain issues and junky stuffs. 

The power company gives us a call to "remind" us of our "nonpayment" and just before that phone call, our Zoe walks upstairs only to come flying back down squealing "It's raining in our house!!"

By all personal standards; I should be an incredible wreck.  I'm typically a high strung, high stress personality type; I can get overwhelmed in a snap if the conditions are ripe. 
There again- taking care of my 3 girls as a stay at home mommy for the past 7 years, I've grown so much in learning how to handle stressful situations.  Any mom can attest to this after experiencing numerous grocery store meltdowns, park-play-date tantrums, the rush of dinner time, bath time, and bedtime chaos, and the squeals and whines, and tattle-tales of sibling rivalry.

Inside the mire, I am witness to absolute sweetness.

Our marriage issues are on hold as Joshua and I lock arms to stand beside one another and fight the battle of stress and uncertainty.  Not gone.  But- on the back burner. 
We have both experienced the trials of extreme financial woes, each during our childhood and adolecent years, and during the first several years of our 10 year old marriage.  It's tough, but an easy fight to win.  God has shown us over and over and OVER how faithful He is in providing for our needs.  I'm excited (crazy excited) to be in this situation right now; because I know I'll get to witness the miracles that God has in store for us.   And- whoa!- in our experience, His miracles are incredible.  Far beyond anything that we could ever accomplish.  It's amazing.

And inside the mire, perspective is gained: "What's really important? What matters?"

I honestly believe that God orchestrated these trials.  He wants to teach us something, lead us in a new direction, and 'force' a change in all of us (for the better!) if we let Him.

I'm open to it and I'm ready for it.

"Here I am, Lord.  Change me!!!!"

Monday, November 29, 2010

Booger Pickers

The more (or less) I am faced with controversy- the more (and more) I realize that facing said controversy has no longer provoked the "pick your battle" mindset {that seemed to only come as an after effect.} 
("Crap!!! I shoulda kept my mouth shut!".)

Rather- it provokes the "pick your booger" mindset. 

Lets face it. When we have boogers in our nose- the suckers have GOT TO COME out.

It's. Not. An. Option. 
Am I right?!

And in private we may do a quick boogie grab as a quick fix. Or- some of *us* may do an extended version of the boogie grab- naked finger and all. 

Some of us may realize that's it's too snotty and gushy to pick out- so we grab our TP and blow the especially globby ones real-quick-like into a tissue.... open it up to see what we got out of the deal... and toss it in the waste basket to be forever forgotten. It's done. 

Or what about the runny nose boogie snot? Snif-snif-snif to suck it all cause we don't wanna have to go searching for a kleenex. Though, eventually- the nose wiping is gonna happen one way or the other?! 

If you've not gotten beside yourself in gross, and you're still able to read along- let me get to my point. 

Battle Picking vs. Booger Picking

In our day to day we do come in contact with various little-battles, somewhat-big battles, and at times, massive-huge battles.

We were instructed to "pick one". 
(Cause you know, we can't fight 'em all.) Some folk have accomplished this strategic method of battle picking; but not I. 

Not me. At all.
Epic fail with the battle picking thing. Almost always. 

I don't know how to pick a battle. I just can't do it. My battle picker is broken. Maybe I never got one? I bet it was lost alongside my filter. They maybe were in the same box? I dunno. 

In recent days I've concluded that the big small huge massive or a variation of them all "battles" are in need of a new name.

My personality type says: "if it's in front of me, i'm gonna go with it. Head on. Sans helmet."

Like a booger. If it's in my nose, I'm getting it out. The end. 

Simple enough. Not that I chose this for my life. Who'd choose that?!? On purpose?!? It's a challenging personality to have!! (Just ask my mama!).

So I know I'm going to pick my boogers. 
Not ignore. Or leave 'hanging'. 

The question now is: 
"Do I quickly pick it? Dig into it? Blow it out fast and look at the snot that results later? Should I grab the kleenex box immediately or sniff it out a while?"

And like all boogie picking seems to go, more often than not, we don't actually dwell on the method as to which way we are going to procede with 'operation boogie removal'. We just do what seems right at the time. 

Sometimes we FAIL to think carefully before hand. 

Sometimes we reach it to do a quick boogie grab and had NO idea the big glob of snot we were going to get out.
("Wish I had a tissue close by.") 

Sometimes we sniff and sniff and sniff and before we know it- we are in mid conversation with dribbled snot pouring out our nostril as our cheeks flush purples and reds from extreme humility.

("Shoot!! I shouldn't have waited too long.")

Other times we get the jagged painful boogies and literally have to endure the discomfort until we are at a 'place' of ability to remove it.
(There are times we get lucky and the jagged dirt booger can be dealt with in private. Others... ... the booger has to get out, and get out NOW. 

It's almost ALWAYS an instinct of sorts as to which way we pick our boogers, isn't it? 
And when it was "the wrong" method, it's almost always too late to recover from the discomfort of it. 
So we just have to move on. No regrets. 
Atleast we got all the boogers out, right? 

It's hard to pick your nose in public.
I know.

But 'Mama said there'd be days like this... there'd be days like this mama said. (Mama said, Mama said).' 
And just sticking a wad of tp up our nostils is a temp fix. So.... 

We have to get our boogies out.

Rejection or not. Disagreement or not. Frustration and defensiveness or not.... 

Otherwise, we'd all be snot nosed BRATS blowing our jagged snotty yucky boogies out randomly and with out good cause. 

Troubles... er... boogers are inevitable.
It's how we "choose to handle" them and that we DO handle them, that matters.

More later......

Sunday, November 28, 2010

High-Low Up-Down Happy-Sad

It's been a long, hard weekend.  
An emotionally strained several months.  
And one of the worst, most formidable, and trying years of my life. 

And it's been a fun weekend filled with family and friends, and muddy pants legs, squishy chubby cheeks to smooch, happy squeals from happy kids, and pumpkin pie.  

And it's been a glorious several months filled with fun-time with my amazing girls,  school field trips, and one on one time with my speed-growing toddler.

And it's been a beautifully composed year basking in new and old and amazing friendships, experiencing a spiritual growth spurt like no other, and a new outlook on who I am, and who I'm meant to be, and how important the gifts God gave me really are- despite having no idea as to what I'm going to do with them.

I've fallen apart over and over; fearful that I'd stay like Humpty Dumpty and none of the King's horses and none of the King's men could put me back together again.  

And I've grown and grown;  feeling  like Alice in Wonderland, who went from a miniature version of herself to a giant towering over those things that once looked mountainous and terrifying.

I've wandered through valley's so dark and so low; uncertain of where my help was in the time of my trouble;  and soon after I've landed atop the peak of the mountain, overlooking the glory and majesty of God's awesomeness....... 

There are always GREAT things to be found in the midst of the awfullest situations. 

My prayer and my hope and my plea is that I will keep my mind and my heart toward the Lord so that I can stay in full view of His goodness, despite adversity.  Afflictions that, in truth, are less than tragic, but more than difficult.

In realizing how conditional the terms are to which I am willing to give love and show love;  I've also realized that God hasn't been excluded from this "condition".  (Cringe!)  

When life is grand, my hands are lifted high, my feet are dancing for joy, and I'm shouting praise and hallelujah to the Lord.  
And when it all turns to hell and the world is against me, my hands raise in question, my feet are stomping in tantrum, and I'm shouting "Why Me!?!?"

Conditional Love for Unconditional Love
"I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today....?"
Give me what I want, right now- and I'll give you what you want later.

I want to stay in check; among the highs and lows, and the ups and downs, and the happy's and the sad's.  I want to see the good inside the bad forever and always.  

And I want to remove the conditional from my love; giving myself freely and completely.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Solo. Tasting the Fruit of Stillness.

Usually- it's beyond rare for me to have the house to myself.  Typically- to get my "solo" time, I do a weirdo maneuver and rent myself a sweet hotel (via Priceline's crazy cheap-ness) for a weekend.  Rare occurance in an of it's self for that to happen.  And then when I do, I totally veg out watching lame-o TV shows, and exploring whichever town Priceline had available to me for $35 and a 3 1/2 star hotel room.


I was s'pose to take today and make it a "clean it all up" day.  The house should be sparkling by now.
 I did as much as I could do, and then I bailed.  I've been sick for a few days, so I just chilled.
 'Cause it was an option.

In the 5 hours of solo time I had here at home, the fact that I didn't have to  listen out for anybody calling my name meant that my earbuds stayed in my ears, plugged into my iPhone, for the whole entire time.  I can't listen to music on 'low'.  So the volume was turned up.  Just the way  I like it.
Huh?  What'd you say?  Ya.  That's what I'm gonna be saying for a few days.
Hoping I didn't do any permanent damage.  I need "special" noise canceling ear phone thingy's so that I'm not deaf in a few years.

I've said it and said it, and I can't say it enough-

"Blogging is my therapy!"  

There are times that I emotionally write 'cause I don't know how to get 'out' what I'm feeling.  I don't know how to express what's going on when I get all jumbled up.  So- I write it out, and in the coolest way, God just speaks to me, and ministers to me as I type.  Like? I'm typing it, but He's telling it to me.  It's "for me" but it's "by me".

 And I get all weepy and moved, and it's absolutely incredible.  There are times I write- and it's pure and unfiltered emotion, and nobody needs to be reading all that, so I draft it- or delete it, or whatever

There are times I write, and it flows so quickly out of me, and then I "reread" it, and I'm like
"Whoa!  I just wrote that?!?!"  

Ok.  So that's what happened in the previous blog.  I had these "thoughts" and I couldn't process what was going on in my head.  I had the opportunity, so I grabbed it up, and I began writing.  20 minutes later, I'm rereading what I had just written, and I'm blown away.

I just said to myself
 "Um? Did you just get ministered to... by your own blog??"

Yup.  I did.

And that's how I know it's not me that does this writing thing.  It's the Lord.
Ok.  Sometimes, it's me babbling.  Sometimes I'm talking about stuff that really affects me, or interest me, or whatever.   But if you read any of these and you're like "HOLY MOLY that was so awesome" that's when you know (and I know) it was totally the Lord using my fingers to do the typing as He was speaking straight to my heart.

And the fact that the Lord just used me to minister to me.  So weird.  And Delicious!
I got still for a little bit- and He was like "OPPORTUNITY!"  And He totally used that time to speak to me.

I'm Not Who You Think I Am....

Sweeping my floor, I think to myself:

"What's the point? Why do I even bother trying to clean up this mess?   It's just gonna be here again after dinner."

And the Lord said:
 "I know.  But ya gotta clean it up anyway, Amber."

Not the floor.  My life.  The mess inside myself.  The mess that I am.

I'm humbled..... Something so little, and mundane, and the Lord uses it to speak to me.

But the clean up that He's telling me to deal with isn't so little.  Nope.  It's huge.  And like a toddler, I want to throw myself on the floor, kicking and screaming "BUT I don't want to!!!!"
Me and my stubborn-ness keeps trying to convince myself that I need to just leave the pile of CRAP laying on the floor- walk away from it and search for a big-fat-rug to cover it up so I can just move on with my life.

And this thought-process, and 'action' in my life makes me feel like I'm "all talk".  Nobody knows who I really am!  I say it, I believe it, but it's so stinkin' hard to live it.

I feel like I'm not who anybody thinks I am.

I'm nothing!  There are times that I take a hard look at myself in the mirror and believe every-single-lie that the enemy punches and kicks inside my gut.
"You're worthless.  You're absolutely worthless.  What have you accomplished?  Nothing!  You're a terrible friend.  A disgusting Christian.  You're daughters are going to hate you when they grow up.  You're marriage is fruitless.  Give up, Amber.  Give up.  Walk away from all of it."

So I begin to convince myself that I suck, and that everybody that knows me has had the wool completely pulled over their eyes.    "They don't know me like I do.  They don't see how I really am."

Part of me wants to alienate myself from the world so as not to fool them of my wickedness.  The thoughts that take over, and that I try to shove out of my head---  sometimes I fear that one day- someone is going to be able to read my mind, and then they'll know... they'll know every-single-one of my struggles.

They'll know, and I'll be put up in front of my peers, and everyone that loved me, and used to care about me will look me up and down with distaste on their lips, and they'll all suddenly have on black robes, and judges wigs, and each one of their gavels will pound down in one harsh crash, and they'll shout "GUILTY!!!"
"She's GUILTY.  She is worthless.  She's a terrible mother. (POUND)  She disregards the truth (POUND!)  She wants to give in to temptation. (POUND)  Pound.  Pound.  Pound.


I'm guilty.  And I know I am.  But nobody else can see it.
And I want them to- and I don't want them to.  I want to be 'found out', but I don't want to be.   I want to be who I am, but absolutely nothing like myself.

And I'm guilty. And I know I am. But my Savior says otherwise.

He walks in with a blood stained robe.
And a crown of thorns atop his matted head.
He walks in with a sword in His side, and bruises all over His body.  His foot prints soak the floor, and His cross lands on the floor with a thunderous roar and authoritively He says "She's innocent."

 Innocent!??!?!  I'm NOT.  I'm not.  I'm NOT innocent.  I'm guilty.  I'm not who You think I am.....

But He knows exactly  who I am.  God sees my wicked heart, for sure- but JESUS jumps inside it, and He pleas on my behalf   "Daddy, she's innocent.  See this blood (as He holds out His hands).  I bled for her.  She's innocent, Daddy.  Pure, and beautiful, and perfect, and WORTHY.  She's innocent.  I have her heart- she gave it to me freely."

And I'm back to the mess, and the kicking and screaming I'm doing on the floor.  I don't wanna clean it up!  I want to walk away.  I have to fight against my flesh to pursue the clean up.

I don't have to clean it up alone.  I don't have to clean it up with judges looming over me.  I don't have to clean it up with gavels pounding in my ear.

 I get to clean it up with a mighty Purifier at my side.  

I'm not anything like who anybody thinks I am.
And I'm nothing like who He says that I am.  I wanna be everything like who He made me to be.
Off I go in search of a middle ground.

UPDATED: Echoing Angels.


It's no secret that I'm a huge Christian-Music fan.
Can't go a day without it.
For realz.

Casting Crowns- lyrically and musically- the band totally hits the spot.
(One of my all time favorites. EVER!)  
Need to Breath.  Musically- absolutely incredible!
Jason Upton.  Lyrically- anointed.  Powerfully anointed.
Cory Asbury.  
Matt Gilman.  
Nichole Nordeman.  
Forever Jones.  
Sara Groves.  
Rita Springer.  
Aaron Keys.  
Chris Tomlin.  
Steven Curtis Chapman.  
David Crowder Band.  
Feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, ahem....I mean Fee.  
Kari Jobe.

When I really get into a song- for the most part- I need to relate to the lyrics.
The music does play a huge role, but lyrics are primary.  

So when my bud JP announced that the new Echoing Angels single "Say What You Believe" was posted on the EA Facebook page, I was out-of-my-seat excited!

I heard some raw stuff, and couldn't wait to hear the finished product.  I felt confused as to why I wasn't in LOVE with their new single ; I mean? Music, Beat, Rhythm, Sound, Vocals......  =  UH_mazing.

It took me a few tries to get into the song.  I didn't connect at first.  It made me sad that I didn't, too- cause I was positive that the new album was gonna blow me away.

Lyrically- it says 

"SAY what you believe- come on and shout it out loud.... 
SAY what you believe- come on and live it out loud.. 

This song is a Battle Cry to SAY what YOU believe!!  Shout it loud.  LIVE it loud!!
So? I guess in that moment of listening to the song- I simply wasn't moved.  I mean?
I do say what I believe....
(I didn't need any "inspiration")

It wasn't long after this, however,  that I was proven WRONG about 'not needing a Battle Cry' song to inspire me.

     I was under pressure, trying to figure out how to talk to our teacher about THIS specific issue.
It stressed me out because I really needed to be "careful " with  my wordage; me being the vomit mouth that I am- especially if I'm passionate about something- I was pretty nervous that my words were going to be taken wrong.  I was wringing my hands thinking of a sugar-coated-method in how I was going to handle the situation.

As I'm climbing the stairs, I have the lyrics to THIS song in my head, and I didn't realize it.  I was singing the chorus "Say what you believe, come on and shout it out loud..... "

I stopped where I was standing, and this light bulb exploded in my head!!  I totally didn't need to sugar coat my convictions to make somebody else comfortable.....   

This is one of those songs that you CAN NOT help but groove to.
It's happy music.
It's CHURCH youth group, do a wild-dance-and-up-and-down like you be CUH_RAZY rockin' awesome music.

Love it.  Love it.  LOVE IT!

But that's not all folks....  

Last week I got to hear the FINISHED product, the whole album, on JP's iPod.  (Thanks, man!)
The album releases MARCH 22 and though it took me a few tries to really get into their single- THE REST of the album BLEW ME AWAY.  It didn't take a second try to fall completely in love with the entire album.

The. Entire. Album.

My eyes watered at the first song- it was so good.  And the next song was just as good.  And the NEXT song was stinkin' awesome.  And the next..... and THE NEXT......  

Rarity for so many songs to seriously capture me on a single album.  Again- going back to Crowns- that's why I love them so much.  I can't think of one song that I don't seriously love for one reason or another.

I didn't get enough time with this album.  I wanted MORE.

I wanted it in-my-car for the drive home so I could hit "repeat all". 

 I don't recall a time that I actually felt anxiously-excited for an album to release.
In comparison to Echoing Angel's first album... there isn't any.  There's no way to compare it.
In comparison to what's out there now..... I can't.  I don't know how to.

Trey Heffinger has a vocal talent---- unbelievable.   Soulful and Rocky and Bluesie and Jazzy,   man--- it's hard to actually say that there is a relative genre comparison, 'cause it's so unique.

When he sings- he kinda makes ya wanna cry a little bit.  

Below is one of the songs on the new album.
It's relational, lyrically.
Musically- it's moving, and beautifully composed.   

And this isn't even the STUDIO version of the song.  This is raw (ya'll).  It's recorded in a
RADIO station, acoustic style.  Acoustic!!!

Can you imagine what it's going to sound like 'in stereo'?!?


Update: January 25, 2010.
I heard some news that Echoing Angels will be releasing acoustic videos of their new songs!!!

These dudes are the real deal-i-o.  You don't wanna miss this!!!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

"What Love Really Means"

Below is one of the most beautiful songs on the radio today.  JJ Heller has a simplistic sound- but oh so powerful lyrics.
She sings:

"Who will love me for me?   Not for what I have done, or what I will become.
Who will love me for me?  Cause nobody has shown me what love, what love really  means....."

I believe this is the heart cry that so many of us have buried deep inside our wreckless hearts.
"LOVE ME.......... for me."

I've talked so much about how challenging it is for "us" (people) to strip off our layers of protection- and stand before our peers "naked"- just as we are, flaws and imperfections shining bright.
JJ captures the core of why it is so hard (almost impossible) for us to do this.  It's a big question.
"Who will (could possibly!!!!!) love me..... for me."

I've known it for a while- and it was confirmed early this week- that I have a protective barrier built inside my heart.  Sure- I can be real, and open, and honest, and raw, and unfiltered..... that's not the barrier I'm talking about.  My barrier is, I think, probably worse.
I protect myself in an unconventional way.  I'll bare it all, no problem- but I "conditionally love" in return.

"If you're nice, I'll be nice.  If you hurt me, I'll hurt you back.  If you break my heart, I'll break yours.
I'll love you, but ONLY if you love me first....."

Big problem for a wife and a mom to have to, not only face- but figure out a way to over come.
Unconditional love shouldn't be an option!!!  I should love- no matter what- whether I like it or not, whether it hurts or not, whether I think it's deserved... or NOT!

This song convicts me!  I know that I'm "loved" for me..... um?.... for the most part.  I can accept WHO I am, and who God made me (sweetly, God  disclosed that I am- who HE made me, and I need to quit my belly aching about being so "different".)  So I've recently come to much better terms with who  I am.  
When I hear the chorus, I feel like poo.  Do I love 'them' for 'them'?
Do I love my husband when he's in the midst of a struggle that affects our relationship and the core of our marriage?  No.  I "hate" him for hurting me.  I am angry and bitter, and totally ready to kick him to the curb.

Seriously.  No bueno.
When he has hurt me, there has typically been a huge part of me that wanted to hurt him back.
Like- hurt his feelings on purpose, or ignore his needs (ahem....) or whatever.

Dude.  God is sooooo GOOD!  That 'hurt you back' thing has been washed away. Gone. Vanished.
No Siento retaliation.   Big deal.  Huge stuff.  Amazing.  I'm so thankful to get to write this truth and know that it's nothing to do with me, but totally to do with the work God has done in me.

I'm selfish.  I want MORE.  I don't want to just settle.  I want to have a Jesus-Christ-Super-Hero love for my husband, despite the junk that gets mixed into our holy matrimony.
(Let's be honest... most of us who are married have junk.... right?  Right?  RIGHT!?!??!!?)

Furthermore, I wanna love THEM... for THEM.  I want to have a genuine for real heart for people.  Not a "conditional" one.  It's easy to love the loveable.  I want to love the unloveable.