Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The God of Second Chances

"Dear Lord,
I do not ask that Thou shouldst give me
some high work of thine,
some noble calling
or some wondrous task.
Give me a little hand to hold in mine."

During my high school senior year. the Equal Rights Amendment was once again up for a vote. The militantly feminist messages pushed by several single female teachers were confusing and just some of the messages being shoved at young women throughout my growing up years.

Shortly after I graduated, I started dating my dear husband. My mind was consumed by young love and the excitement of preparing for a wedding. We lived in newly wedded bliss for two years. I worked just enough to keep me from getting bored, as we lived in a tiny apartment in the Awase area of Okinawa and I was away from the American community on the military bases. When we arrived at my husband's next duty station in Plattsburgh, NY, we were expecting our first child. My life was consumed with preparations for our new arrival. Shortly after our first daughter was born we moved to the little house next door to my husband's parents in West Virginia.

To help with a few bills while my husband built a car rebuilding business, I used my dental assistant training and got a part-time job. It was a tough summer, missing my daughter, especially at feeding times. Thank the Lord for milk pumps! By the fall, I had enough and my husband's business was covering our small expenses, thanks to the generosity of his parents letting us live rent-free. Life revolved around the joys of our growing daughter and getting to see each other any time we wanted.

The business grew difficult with extremely hours long needed to succeed, I was beginning to feel the strain of living so close to in-laws, and we missed the military life we had given up. We chose to return to the Air Force and moved away. We enjoyed our tiny family and were blessed with the surprise of another little one on the way when our daughter was 13 months old. With the arrival of our second daughter, the easy-to-keep-up-with household required more effort to stay organized. Three years, the birth of our son, and two moves later, I was barely keeping up with housework and budgeting was just non-existent. The feeling I was missing out on something lodged itself in the back of my mind. I went back to work in a job I could work while the kids were asleep at night.

Gradually I lost the joy I took in my children. No longer were accidents and messes cute. When I was given an opportunity to go back to school, I jumped at it and spent two years trying to juggle the whole thing, only really succeeding in academics. Then we moved again. By the time we had been married 10 years, we had moved seven times.

One of the ways I got familiar with an area when we moved was to pile the kids in the van and drive around exploring. During one of those times, I discovered a wonderful radio station that had a program from Proverbs 31 Ministries. I couldn't tune it in at home, so I planned our trips around the radio schedule for Focus on the Family broadcasts and Proverbs 31 broadcasts. God gave me a wake-up call and pulled my heart back to my home. That eventually led me to homeschool my children and it seemed life was back on track in my mind. Of course we moved again...and because of several circumstances, we put our children back in public school. I again found work outside our home and for five out of the next six years my children attended public school (household moves 8 through 11).

We put our son in a private Christian school, which we felt was necessary for him and I used this as an excuse to take a very busy job in support of the 2002 Winter Olympics. I had a lot of responsibility and the job was prestigious. I got to hobnob with people from many countries. I justified the inevitable neglect of my family by reminding myself that I was working for a Christian organization. At one point I was working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week.

When my husband retired from the Air Force that June, we moved back to his hometown, into the house his parents had lived in. I gradually again saw what a blessing being home with my children was. But, alas I reaped what I had sowed...my children were very busy in all kinds of things. Our oldest daughter moved out because she felt we were too restrictive and it took God's intervention to help our family heal from the years I had neglected to make them a priority in my life.

Our oldest moved back home and 8 months later gave birth to our grandson. Although the circumstances were not ideal, God blessed our daughter with wisdom and she is a wonderful mother trying to do her best with her son. We are fully supportive of her and I get the opportunity to do my best for my whole family now. I have gotten to be a big part of our grandson's life and will be starting preschool lessons with him this fall. My heart always wanted to be home...my stubborn will just wouldn't listen. God was right alongside me the whole time and He guided me to an awareness of who He created me to be. I've been able to shake off all the confusing messages I received growing up about what is important in a woman's life.

I get a second chance to help in the life of a young one (and hopefully many more young ones as my children find Godly mates and start giving us more grandchildren). I also have the privilege of being a mentor to our grown daughters and an example of a woman seeking God's heart for our son. P.S., a great plus of being a grandparent is that I get to teach and love and spoil and send the darling home. And every step of growth has also strengthened my relationship with my husband. Because God is faithful, I am truly blessed!

"The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." ~Proverbs 14:1

(I've been both...its much more fulfilling to be wise!!! If you like stories about lessons learned, read my August 25th post :)

Nina is hosting In Other Words at her site Mama's Little Treasures. If you want to participate, write a blog about the quote in the box above on your site then click on the link to Nina's blog and leave your URL in the Mr. Linky box. You will also find links for the other participants' blogs.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Summer of My Discontent

My husband and I like to take long motorcycle rides in the country. We have had several trips this summer through the farmlands of Ohio. I have a tendency to look at farms or large parcels of land for sale and try to commit the realtors’ numbers to memory. On more than one of our rides, I commented out loud that, “I would love to have that place.”

My husband's reply was surprising, “That’s why I sometimes hesitate to take you riding. It always makes you discontented with what we have.” I felt a quick bite of shame at his response. It’s true…seeing secluded farms or properties with plenty of space between them and their neighbors evoke a longing in me…every time.

I pondered over my husband’s comments for a long while, determining that I would suppress that longing the next time it reared its green and envious head. I have been somewhat successful. I started looking for ways I can implement characteristics of the farms I like into our property. I have focused on the gardens in particular.

The second weekend in August we were riding on Ohio county road 775. We passed many farms, including four Amish farms. I examined them closely to see what made their places so appealing. I discovered three things:

  1. There was no clutter of belongings everywhere. (“…a time to keep and a time to throw away.” Ecclesiastes 3:6b [NIV])
  2. The gardens were well tended. (“…a time to plant and a time to uproot.” Ecclesiastes 3:3a [NIV])
  3. The farms were just big enough for the Amish farmer and his family to tend without needing expensive equipment. (“That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 3:13 [NIV])

Our garden is a bit of a sorry affair. After I spent the first half of the summer in physical therapy unable to bend and dig because of my back, we were overrun with weeds…massive ones as tall as me in some instances. My husband spent the better part of his time off from work trying to get his mother’s broken water line fixed. It was a huge undertaking (involving laying 450 feet of line and going back a couple weeks ago to fix yet another leak at a joint).

I just spent a week digging, hoeing, and tugging weeds trying to reclaim the space. My husband jumped in on Saturday to shovel up some of the weeds. I am, as of this writing, itching to get out there and plant some Red Russian kale, Bloomsdale spinach, and Mammoth Melting Sugar edible-podded sugar peas. With my loaded tomato plants staked, the pepper plants doing beautifully, and my one surviving okra plant steadily producing a pod a week, we will have a small, but lovely harvest soon.

We have a nice place. It’s not huge, just an acre and a half. It’s not secluded at all, with neighbors on each side and a highway in front, but it backs up to Twelvepole Creek and has a mountain on the other side of the creek, so our backyard is private. And it is ours with out the burden of mortgage payments.

It is just where God intends us to be. If that were not true, I am sure He would have given my dear husband the same longing to find a bigger and better place. Since He has not, I can only conclude that I am, like my plants, meant to bloom where I am planted, focus on the blessings I have, and work to be a good steward of these same blessings.

And I have this great promise to cling to when green-eyed envy tries to rear its ugly head:

“A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that's enough.” ~~1 Timothy 6:6-8 [The Message]

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

An Ordered Life

“Order my steps, in Your word
Order my tongue, in Your word
Guide my feet, in Your word
Wash my heart, in Your word
Show me how to walk, in Your word
Show me how to talk, in Your word.
I want to walk worthy, my calling to fulfill
Please order my steps, Lord, and I’ll do Your blessed will
The world is ever changing, but You are still the same
If You order my steps, I’ll praise Your name.
~A hymn by Glen Burleigh~

Stress is a major issue in disrupting good health, especially for women. It may be a contributing factor to everything from backaches and insomnia to cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Disorder is large on my list of stress triggers. Disorder for me falls into three categories:
  1. Disorder in my relationships
  2. Disorder in my person
  3. Disorder in my home
The category that completely affects the others is number 1, especially in my relationship with God. Just looking on my bookshelf lets me know how much money I spend trying to control that aspect of my life. I have 4 versions of woman's study Bibles. I have about 30 books on developing a closer walk with the Lord.

My favorite 2 books for women are Life Management for Busy Women, by Elizabeth George; and A Woman's Secret to a Balanced Life, by Lysa TerKeurst and Sharon Jaynes.

The first section of each book covers our relationship to God, especially developing a passion for His Word. Elizabeth George says: "Behind the passionate saint is a passion for God and His Word." For me, a skewed priority list is the number one source of stress. If I start my day without at least 5 minutes meeting with God in His word, the whole day is more difficult. I can tell, though, even on the days that I spend more than the five minutes~if I just check Bible study off my to-do list and go about my day without dwelling on what I've read, the stress still beats me up.

I have to think the secret lies with the words from Mr. Burleigh's hymn, "Show me how to walk in Your word, show me how to talk in Your word." It's more about experiencing the true personal relationship with God than about doing my Christian "duties." Don't you think our relationship to the Lord is supposed to be a vibrant, exciting, and comfortable relationship? Something like spending time with a close confidant. Someone who loves you no matter what and is always honest with you.

My newest favorite read is a neat book by Leonard Sweet, The Gospel According to Starbucks: Living with a Grande Passion. On the subject of authentic passion, Dr. Sweet quotes jazz legend Charlie "Bird" Parker: "If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn."

The Apostle Paul put it this way:

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” ~Colossians 3:16

and the psalmist put it like this:

“Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.” ~Psalm 50:23

Lori is hosting In Other Words at her site All You Have to Give. If you want to participate, write a blog about the quote in the box above on your site then click on the link to Lori's blog and leave your URL in the Mr. Linky box. You will also find links for the other participants' blogs.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Surviving the Tests

“Problems can slow us down temporarily—but they don’t have the ability to stop us. Only we have that power.” ~Wayne Cordeiro

I was given a magnificent gift from my husband two years ago. He encouraged me to follow my lifelong dream of becoming a full-time writer. He even provided the funds for me to enroll in Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild (CWG) apprentice course.

I bounced along happily for six months with two writing deadlines a month. The busy holidays of that year made finding time alone to write very difficult. I was working on assignment #12 when a major disaster hit our extended family. A nephew, under the influence of drugs and alcohol, beat, robbed, and left a man for dead the day after Christmas.

Reeling from that and trying to be the support for my mother-in-law (she always comes to me with the big troubles), I was unprepared for the break-up of our oldest daughter’s engagement on New Year’s Eve. We all felt like we had lost a member of the family, and it was doubly painful watching our 2 year old grandson as he had become very attached to this man.

I took a leave of absence from my part-time job as a church secretary so I could focus on our family full-time. After a month my husband and I determined that the best place for me was home again on a permanent basis. At time of these back-to-back crises, I also took a break from my writing course, intending to get started again in March. Then more crises hit.

Court dates for our nephew (his conviction of 2-10 years in prison), my sister’s surgery that revealed cervical cancer (caught early PTL!), our younger daughter’s devastating break-up from her fiancĂ© of two years, a dear friend’s diagnosis of aggressive breast cancer just days before burying her mother (a victim of the same cancer), our beloved dog dying, our son’s bout with mono (loosing 24 pounds in two weeks from a severely swollen throat), my back giving up its job supporting my body (weeks of physical therapy to recover mobility after two years of pain), our son’s engagement breaking off.

Although I have been able to fulfill most of my responsibilities to my immediate and extended family and to my church and a mission church, my dream of pursuing a career in writing slowed down until it appears all movement forward has stopped. I can’t believe that 18 months have passed since I requested a break from my writing assignments.

I am very sad that I let myself get beaten down so much that I let loose of my God-given dream. I am very much ashamed to realize that I have not grasped tighter to the Father’s hand, instead relying on myself to get through the problems.

One thing I have discovered after looking back over the past 18 months—every month (almost every week) something arises to test me. My response to the testing is a clear indicator of my walk with God.

Times when I came to a complete standstill, I was relying on my own strength. Times when I slowly made it through the problems, I had spent hours immersed in God’s Word and in prayer.

I really would like to get back to pursuing my writing education in order to fulfill my dream. I believe God gifted me with the talent I have. I am battling myself right now over requesting an extension on my CWG course mostly out of fear.

Two promises I am clinging to with both hands as I try to decide whether to request the extension—

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” ~2 Corinthians 12:9


“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him and He will do it.” ~Psalm 37:4-5

Karen is hosting In Other Words at her site In Love W.I.T.H. Jesus. If you want to participate, write a blog about the quote in the box above on your site then click on the link to Karen's blog and leave your URL in the Mr. Linky box. You will also find links for the other participants' blogs.