What’s This?

Just a week ago or so I was sitting on the couch and reading a book to my two little grandsons Connor and Tyson. Without any warning, Connor pushes right at my belt-line and says, “What’s this Grandma?” I replied, “You mean my belt?” “No” he said, pushing right above my belt, “This, right here! Do you have a baby in your belly too?” It’s all about babies right now for these two since they will welcome a new sibling in their house this summer.

I was trying not to take it personally and believe that Connor really thinks I look six months pregnant, so I laughed out loud which caused both of them to erupt into giggles. My vanity says, I was just slouching while sitting so my middle section was protruding a bit, and since babies are on the brain it would be only natural to think that Grandma would be joining the fun! After all, Tyson had referred to “his baby” in his belly when he crashed on my bed recently.

As the laughter wore off I thought yes, there is a baby in my belly, although not a “baby” as an expectant mother would have. I am pregnant with anticipation of the future even though I can’t see all the puzzle pieces and how they will fit together. It’s hard sometimes when the path you are on takes a different turn. I recently was laid off from my job. It was bittersweet just yesterday as I now was classified as a “volunteer” at one of our fundraising events, a golf tournament. I was still part of the team, but now I was no longer on the staff. I found myself tongue-tied talking to the participants when they asked what my role was in the organization. I didn’t know what to say, and fumbled over my words. I’m trying not to beat myself up because it’s the first time I had encountered that question in the context and I wasn’t prepared to give the answer never-the-less the reality of the answer. It was kind of another “what’s this” question, but for me, it is directed towards God. “What’s this God and what does it mean now?” I don’t know the answer and this blog post might not make much sense. I wrestled with just telling the cute story of Connor and leaving it at that, but this is what is flowing from my heart at the moment and so I have invited you into my journey, even if it doesn’t make sense!

So for now, being pregnant with hope for the future also means a loss and I am grieving. I am planning to still be a part of the ministry and volunteer but I will miss the community of the office and the camaraderie of my co-workers on the day to day basis. I will miss the sometimes daily crazy chaos that comes with working in a non-profit ministry that is trying to make a difference with limited resources. I will miss the God-moments of watching and hearing of lives being changed and brokenness turned into beauty. What am I pregnant with? Hope, because I know that hope is a person, my Jesus. He is what I place my hope in today even the Y in the road and unexpected twists and turns. What are you pregnant with today?

Comparison and Facebook

Tonight, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of college women about the trap of comparison. I brought up the contrast of falling into comparison and Facebook. As I was prepping, I came across a blog on this topic, it hit me square on. This is subtle bait from our enemy to travel down that rut in our minds diminishing who God made us to be! I shared this and that I was reflecting on what I had recently learned and we had a lively discussion.

I found myself in awe of the awareness of these amazing young women. They had such brilliant insight. One said that on Facebook, we don’t really share all of ourselves, we don’t often share the bumps and bruises but wanting to put our best “face” forward when we post. The goal is to get “likes” and “comments” so we can feel better about ourselves. Wow! Such wisdom from this generation and so we talked about, is it really connecting relationally on social media on a true heart level? Do we really see beneath our “faces?” We asked ourselves tough questions; when we look at Facebook does it cause us to actually compare our lives with others? For example, wishing we had a better life, or why does that person seem to have more comments, more likes, or for Twitter fans, more followers? I could of listened to them all night.

As they walked out the door, I gave them a love letter from God compiled from promises in scripture that tell us exactly how God sees us. The assignment was to cozy up in their beds before they went to sleep and read it so their minds could be renewed as they slept. They graciously thanked me for coming and for sharing with them. Honestly, I was the one who was blessed. These lovely young women have big dreams for God and they are renewing their minds so that their comparisons don’t distract them from God’s destiny for their future.

I really do have fun on Facebook, it can be a effective way to communicate in our society, but it has it’s drawbacks. I just found it fascinating and it was refreshing to honestly take a topic like comparison and see how something as culturally relevant as Facebook can feed the comparison lies. We as a group determined that knowing the truth is what sets us free (John 8:32). The reality is that God gives us the thumbs up of his unconditional love every single moment of our “posted” lives. He “likes” us each and every day!

Weddings and Answered Prayers

This past weekend I was a part of a grand celebration. A wedding. A wedding that was an answer to prayer witnessing God’s blessing on a family that I’ve known for most of my life. My best friend let go of her last son in marriage to a beautiful girl who was truly a match made in heaven. He was the last of our six boys combined to take the plunge and walk down the aisle. It was joyous and bittersweet. As my oldest son (the first of the six who was married) remarked to me sitting at the reception, “Mom, it is the end of an era.” I had to tell him to stop because I was about to cry. I was remembering Cheryl and I and all the prayers we have prayed for our six boys and their future brides for the past 30 years. We were at the end, we have seen the fulfillment of prayers answered above and beyond what either of us could ever imagine (or picked ourselves!). Between the two of us, God gave us six amazing girls to complete our families.

At the rehearsal dinner I sat around the table with his college friends and work partners. I was blessed. His friends are lovers of Jesus and world changers. As I listened that evening to person after person share about the character of these two people about to enter the sacred union of marriage, I was moved. I was reminded that character is the most important. Character is what drives us and creates our pathway for greatness. Not greatness in the sense of worldly success or fame, but the kind of greatness that leads to making our mark in history. Greatness in the sense of the ability to love deeply and be gracious, kind and generous to others. What I witnessed this past weekend was greatness the way Paul describes in his charge to us, “Love one another with brotherly affection as members of one family, giving precedence and showing honor to one another.” Romans 12:10 (Amplified Bible). I saw that firsthand as the event unfolded from the unspoken words and actions of family and friends, to the toasts blessing the bride and groom.

My friend Cheryl and her husband Dan have done a stellar job of building this kind of greatness of character into their three boys and it shows. Their family is a testament of God’s love, kindness and grace and it was an honor to share in the journey and witness greatness in its fullest splendor. Onnie Piyali Wedding

Instant Read

You would think I was the best Mom ever. The very best. In a crowded  restaurant came a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, “This is awesome, thanks Mom.”

Are you kidding me? This is all it takes to get a “This is awesome, Mom?” I had just given my 23 year old son an instant read thermometer. Yes, you heard me right, no he wasn’t sick. I gave him a thermometer that measures meat temperature in a hot oven. He likes to cook. He likes accuracy. He is of the male species and no matter what hobby they take up, they like tools. This is a cooking tool, one for insuring that whatever delicacy you are making it won’t overcook, get dry, and have to be covered with a sauce if you mess up.

Little did I know how important that tool was to him. He has secretly been wanting one for several months. Instant read, instant success! At least that is how I like to think of it.

Lately I have been having trouble reading my emotions. I wish there was a tool for accurately  reading ones soul. Sometimes in a storm it’s just plain hard to see. The wind and rain whip you around and it’s all you can do to put one foot in front of another. There isn’t time or energy to even figure out if you are wet. You just know you have to keep moving so you won’t drown or get lost in the storm.

It is in those times when my head is down bracing against the elements that I remember a very important truth. Trust. Faith. Trust and Faith. Trust, Faith and God. You see, one really doesn’t coexist without the other. You can’t have faith without trust. You can’t have trust without faith. More importantly, you can’t have trust and faith without God. He is the source, he is the author and the giver of faith. When you don’t have any, you just have to ask.

I might not be able  to figure out if I am wet or cold in a storm, or what temperature my swirling emotions might be but I do know this. God is my instant read thermometer. He knows instantly what I need. He knows my temperature. He is my El Roi, the God who sees. He is my El Shaddai, the God who is enough. He is my Elohim, the creator of my soul. He knows, He sees, He is enough. He won’t subject me to the elements to destroy me or in culinary terms, let me overcook! Thank goodness, that wouldn’t be pretty.

He won’t let me walk in the storm with my head down forever. He will give blessings as Psalm 84 says, “Though I walk through the valley of weeping, there will be pools of blessings after the rain.”

A Tribute to Maggie 1997-2010

Funny how life-altering decisions can ease their way into your day and you find yourself having to let go. Today was an ordinary Saturday, mowing the lawn, cleaning the house and enjoying the simple pleasures of the last weekend of summer. Later in the afternoon, Kevin and I found ourselves in the vets office having to make a decision neither one of us had the courage to make. Our little spit-fire girl Maggie was sick. She has been dramatically sick at times and we have found her to be resilient in bouncing back. She has bounced back from  bumping into screen doors and scratching her eye, seizures and oh yes need I forget, her near death chocolate eating escapades. But today was different. Her injured eye of a few years ago revealed something more serious. She became listless, lethargic and her usual spunk was gone.

It was surreal as we listened to the vet read off our options like a newspaper report. Plain and simple it was a series of issues all connected that at her age of nearly 14 years really only could mean one thing. One thing we weren’t prepared for, one thing we had no idea when we woke up this morning we would have to make a hard choice, to let go. Let go of our little companion. As we both sat in the office  our faces wet with tears we said goodbye. We cried, we told her all the things we loved about her. Yes, even me. For all the times she drove me crazy, she still was a very lovable companion and I will miss her.

Maggie, I will miss your determination to find every scrap of food on the floor, butter on the table, chocolate in hidden places and surveying the room before you jumped up on the table to help yourself to leftovers. I will miss the memories of your cuddles with the boys, laying in Kevin’s lap as he read each morning with his cup of coffee, our walks and yes even yelling at you to get out of my kitchen!

Maggie wiggled her way into the hearts of those she stayed  with as well. She left her mark that is certain. She chewed through little boy’s lunch boxes to eat the corner of a forgotten sandwich. She playfully bit her caretaker’s dog. She became an unexpected visitor to neighbors who left their front doors open. She ran away several times looking for an adventure.  And yes, the most unexpected, her dachshund hunting instincts captured  my nieces bird in the house proudly thinking, “This is what I was born to do.” Unfortunately, my niece didn’t feel the same way. Oh Maggie, you were mischievous, fun-loving and yes sometimes very, very naughty. But we loved you and we will miss you.

Maggie came into our life in a time of transition back in 1997. Jeremy was just finishing highschool and soon would be leaving for college, I had to let go. She left our life today at a season of transition of becoming empty nesters this past year, another time of letting go. Maggie was just  a dog, a really cute dog, but she had a purpose. She was a life companion through moments of letting go.

Life is hard sometimes….

Life is hard sometimes-crazy, mixed up, messed up. And there you are, in the middle of it all, just doing your thing….being strong and brave and beautiful like it’s no big deal. But let me tell you, girl, IT IS! Not everyone can do what you can do. Not everyone can handle things the way you can. While you wonder sometimes if you’re doing ok…the rest of us are just watching in wonder.

I found the above quote in a card (Dayspring) the other day at the bookstore. I bought it. I am saving it for just the right moment. I might even frame it. It triggers something in my heart. I want to be that kind of woman. She is a princess warrior woman. She believes her God. She holds onto her faith and doesn’t let go. She knows God’s promises inside and out, so she can trust Him. When life gets hard she doesn’t collapse. She might cry, have a meltdown, but it is temporary. She brushes the tears away grabs her sword (her bible) and returns to what she knows is true. God never, ever, ever lets us down. He is faithful. He is the center to cling to in the eye of the storm.

That’s what I have been learning lately, Psalm 9:10. In case you aren’t familiar with this small little verse. Here it is, and I warn you it is packed with a punch!

And they who know Your name (who have experience and acquaintance with Your mercy) will lean on and confidently put their trust in You, for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek (inquire of and for) You (on the authority of God’s Word and the right of their necessity). Amplified Bible (don’t you love it?)

I realized after musing over this tiny little verse the power of the truth contained in those words. If I know God’s name, I can trust Him. Can you trust someone you don’t really know? I recognized once again that my problem with trust lies in my own ignorance. You see, I don’t trust deeply or willfully at times for one simple reason. I don’t know God like I could. And whose fault is that? MINE!!

How do we know God anyway? What does it look like? How can you and I get to know a God who is bigger than the universe, who was for a fact our creator. We can’t exactly make a date over coffee, or can we? I am discovering that I can’t know God on my own. I need help. I need spiritual eyes to see what I can’t see on my own. I have also realized that God wants me to know Him just as much or more than I could even conceive. Where do I start? Simply here, simply now with a cry for help to the one who made me and knows my every thought. (Psalm 139)

You know what? God hears me. He sees the secret desires in my heart to know Him more. He is revealing himself to me beyond just a sit-down coffee date with my bible. He is whispering His great love in the picture of the sunset. He is unveiling His truths as I watch the delight of my year old grandson. I see Him as I watch my friends share together. I hear His voice in a song that promises hope when life is unraveling.

Yes, Life is hard sometimes. The latter part of the verse in Psalms promises, God will never turn away if we come to Him with our messy, mixed up and crazy lives!   Are you ready to join me in knowing God’s name and His character more? Let’s do it! So that when we know Him, trust Him with our messiness, others will like the quote on the card said, watch with wonder!

T

Left for Dead in the Wilderness

Desolation, barren, dry; these are words that can all describe an experience in the wilderness. Two things can come out of a wilderness experience; a new journey or death. When I say death, I don’t mean physical death but rather a spiritual and emotional death. It’s when you write your own death certificate. It might say something like this,  ” I couldn’t find my way out of the wilderness so I am destined to pound in my tent pegs deeper in the hard dry soil and just make a go of it. Maybe, just maybe things will change, but I can’t find my way, so I am camping right here!”

That is how I felt at several points throughout much of last year and even some this previous spring. I felt left for dead in the wilderness. Life became so difficult; it was like walking in a sandstorm. It was hard to see and put one foot in front of another. I found myself there with my mouth full gritty sand and my eyes burning with the wind that I learned the greatest truth. I was desperate. I didn’t have to just survive. God actually wanted me to thrive in the wilderness. It was actually God’s will for me to flourish in the wilderness and not be left for dead. Contrary to the lies that were seeking to overcome me, God was there. His presence was real in the midst of the pain. He was my deepest comfort in the wilderness storm and He did provide.

My wilderness was a marriage that had a meltdown. Not meltdowns that you can kind of wade through and brush yourself off after you fall down. But a meltdown that nearly left us for dead. It was all we could do to garner all that we knew up to this point and cry out to God to help us figure out how to not just “make it” but to come out on the other side with new life and a hope for our future. It took humility for us both to realize we were beyond our own leadership skills and experience to emerge from the darkness.  We had to call in reinforcements and let others know that we needed help. Band-Aids were no longer an option. Surgery was needed.

In humility in the wilderness, I fell on my knees. I surrendered. Reinforcements arrived and carried me to the foot of the cross where I found hope and healing.

Today, we are on the backside of that wilderness; we have been bruised and broken. Each day brings new healing and hope and we look forward to our future.

I am a different person. I have emerged stronger with a greater sense of awe and love for my Jesus. I am grateful I didn’t get lost in the storm and just die in the wilderness. God resurrected His truths in my heart.  I know now when I am at the bottom and exhausted from the journey, God desires to give my desperate heart strength because He doesn’t believe in dead carcasses in the wilderness. I am destined to thrive and not just survive.

After almost two years…the blog post is here!

Today I was attempting to set-up a blog. I had my username, email, and it was not available! I couldn’t believe that my own username and email BOTH were not available. The reason why? Apparently in my techie frenzy back in January 09′ I had already set the blog up! Go figure!

I will blame it on the lazy days of summer, becoming a Grandma this past year or just plain forgetting! So here I am, first introductory entry with loads of backlog in the creative department.

I am hoping to use this blog to download some pent-up thoughts, inspirations, creative ventures and lots more. So stay tuned and be. Might be a few days, but I promise it won’t be another year and a half before I post something.

Laugh out loud and Live Ready!

Cynthia