Saturday, March 28, 2015

40 Lessons in 40 Years

This very well may be the last time I publicly admit my age, but today I turn 40.  Wow... give me a minute... I need to process that for a moment... 

Okay, I'm back.  

In all honesty, I have been thinking about this day for quite some time now. And over the last few weeks I've been reflecting on some of the things I've learned throughout my lifetime.  Ironically, there are 40 things that stand out.  So, in no particular order here are the 40 lessons I have learned throughout the past 40 years.  

1.  I am a child of the one true King.  Perfectly loved, just as I am, by a perfect God.

2.  Life is hard and it usually isn't fair.  

3.  A dog will love you the way no human ever could.

4.  Parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life!

5.  The hardest things in life are often the most rewarding.

6.  I have had to ask forgiveness way more often than I have had to give forgiveness.

7.  Relationships are messy but the good ones are always worth fighting for.

8.  It's easy to judge that person sitting next to you - for the way they dress, the way they parent, the things they've done.  It is far, far harder to choose to see them as God sees them, and to recognize and appreciate they are doing the best they can.

9.  Be content with what you have.  Someone will always have more than you - MANY have less.

10.  Love is an action.  Do it every day.

11.  I am blessed.

12.  Never stop learning.

13.  It's okay to change your mind.

14.  There is nothing in this world my kids could do to make me stop loving them - NOTHING!

15.  You are never to busy to read a good book.

16.  Money isn't everything.  No amount of material possessions will ever bring you true joy.

17.  The Bible is Truth.  Read it every day.

18.  Treat the ones you love at least as good as you would treat a stranger.

19.  As much as I am an extrovert, I need quiet times all by myself too.

20.  Laughter can make even the hardest of situations more bearable, and the sweetest of moments even more special.  In EVERY situation, even when your heart is breaking, find something to laugh about.

21.  Exercise is just as important for my mental health as it is for my physical health.

22.  Look people in the eye.  

23.  There is nothing sweeter than hearing your kids laugh as they play together.  

24.  As much as I loved my husband on the day I married him, I love him even more today.  And I imagine that 20 years from now I will love him even more. 

25.  People are going to hurt you, sometimes intentionally, most of the time unintentionally.  Forgive the people who ask for you for forgiveness, and for those who don't bother to ask...forgive me them anyway.

26.  Believing in Jesus is not necessarily the same thing as following Jesus.

27.  Some of the best friends you will ever have you meet before the age of 5, some of the best friends you will ever have you meet in adult hood, both are gifts from God, treasure them. 

28.  Regardless of it's size, weight, shape or dimensions, the female body is an amazing and beautiful thing.  Be proud of the body you have.

29.  Words matter.  Kind words go a long way to making a bad day better and harsh words can ruin even the best of moods. Watch your words carefully.

30.  It's okay to cry.

31.  Everyone has a story tell.  And every story is worth listening to.  Learn to listen.

32.  Everyone will look up to someone, choose your someone wisely, and always act like someone has chosen you.

33.  Family is always on your side.

34.  Loving your kids means letting them choose their own passions, you can't make them choose yours.

35.  Societies view of beauty is very temporary and dependent on things most people can never maintain.  True beauty, eternal beauty, always has and always will shine from the inside out, and can last forever.  

36.  Wisdom and maturity are not necessarily related to one's age, some of the wisest people I know are very young and even older people can be very immature.

37. Take care of your body - it will thank you later.  

38.  There are times when a hug or loving touch says far more than any words ever could.

39.  My husband gets more attractive with age.

40.  I don't necessarily like the fact that I am now 40, but I have learned to like the woman I am becoming.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Spark

Growing up in a small, rural-Kansas town, I don’t remember a time when my dad wasn’t a part of the volunteer fire department.  In fact I have very few memories prior to him being the Chief.  Even though the department was all volunteer, the fire station, and the men and women who served there, are integral parts of my formative years.  After college, my brother moved back to the small town and also joined the fire department, taking his turn as Chief after my dad retired (finally!).  

One of my most cherished family memories is standing as a family, with my parents and my brother, two nights before my brother’s wedding, as we watched an abandoned house that had been struck by lightening burn to the ground.  There was something strangely poignant about this season of “just the four of us” ending in the midst of a fire.  The fact that the house was abandoned and no one’s life or property was in danger took the fear and urgency out of the night.  So we stood there, just the four of us, amidst the chaos of fire fighters doing what they do, and watched in awe the power of fire.  

The thing about a raging fire, like the one that consumed that abandoned house the night before my brother’s wedding, is that it usually starts with just a spark.  The smallest spark has the power to become an all-consuming inferno.  And when a fire that strong burns one of two things will happen, it will destroy or it will cleanse.

The danger of a spark is that when it ignites it has the potential for immense force and too often it leaves destruction in its path.  There was another house fire I remember from my childhood.  This one started literally from the smallest spark thrown by an ember buried under the ash of a fireplace fire long burned out.  In the deep recesses of the night, the spark landed on the carpet outside of the fireplace.  The carpet ignited, the fire alarms did not go off, and only three of the five people inside made it out alive.  It was a tragic night in our small town.  There is no doubt that fire can destroy.  

A strange thing can happen when your daddy is the fire chief.  You start to LOVE the smell of fire!  Not just the smell of a bonfire on a fall evening, but that charred, burned smell that to most people brings a memory of pain, fear and loss.  To me, that smell conjures up memories of my dad, memories of safety, strength and protection.  It was the smell of my dad’s truck the day after he ran into a fire protecting our neighbors and their property from harm.  It was the smell of my hero and it represented his courage, his strength, and his protection.  To this day, I (perhaps inappropriately) LOVE the smell of fire, especially the smell of a burned field in early fall. 

The power of a spark is that it can also, ultimately, be cleansing.  My favorite time to head back home is during the fall, after the harvest, when the farmers in central Kansas burn their fields.  They do this for a couple of reasons.  One, to clear it of the old stubble and two, to destroy any remaining weed seeds.  Essentially, to cleanse the ground for the new planting.  The same power that makes the spark so dangerously destructive, is what makes it so purifying.  Only when the old waste and bad seed have been destroyed can the new harvest be planted and have room to grow.

The thing is, not all sparks will destroy and not all sparks will cleanse.  Not all sparks become a raging fire.  All sparks have the potential to be an inferno, but not all sparks do become an inferno.  In order for a fire to happen, a spark must be stoked, flamed, encouraged.  

You can find this “spark” or “fire” terminology throughout the Bible, often signifying the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit came down on the early church in flaming tongues!  Paul urges believers to fan the flames of their faith!  Christian songs sing of turning the spark from the Holy Spirit into a flame we can’t control!

Each of us, deep inside, have sparks.  We have sparks of rebellion that lead to destruction, leaving behind them loss and pain and charred remains of what we once had.  And we all have sparks from the Holy Spirit that can purify and cleanse us of all the waste and bad seed in our life, leaving fresh soil for a new harvest.  The question is which spark will you fan into a fire?  Both have the potential to change your life.  Both have the potential to become an inferno that you cannot control.  You, my friend, have to choose which spark you will let burn.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Journey to the Promise Land

I imagine most of you reading this are familiar with the Promise Land.  

It is the land God promised to Abraham and his descendants back in the very beginning of the Old Testament, the land that lies along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  Abraham settled there after he left Ur but just a few generations later his descendants ended up in Egypt due to a famine that spread through the lands.  The Israelites grew in numbers during their time in Egypt and out of fear of their rebellion, Pharaoh enslaved them, all of them.  Their life under Pharaoh was awful.  So awful that the Israelites groaned and called out to God to deliver them.  So God sent Moses to guide the Israelites back to the Promise Land, the land flowing with milk and honey, the land God had always planned for them, the land where they would finally be right where God wanted them. 

Wouldn't you just love to be there; in a place where the fields you are working (whatever those "fields" might be) are fertile and the harvest you reap is abundant; a place where you know this is what God had planned for you and you are right where he wants you to be?  

The problem with "there", with the Promise Land, is that it is almost always not where you start.  Just like the Israelites started in Egypt and had to journey to the Promise Land, we often start a fair distance away from where God wants us and we have to journey to our Promise Land.

No one knows the exact route the Israelites took to the Promise Land but scholars estimate it should have taken approximately one month (give or take) walking on a direct route to reach the land.  Instead, the Israelites spent the next 40 years wondering through the desert. And it wasn't because they were enjoying the process!!!

Not three days after their miraculous escape from the Egyptians, the Israelites were ready to turn around and go back.  You see the journey to the Promise Land was hard! Way harder than they thought it would be.  You see the journey to the Promise land is rarely easy.  It wasn't back then and it isn't today.  And regardless of how awful our old life may have been there is something about the familiarity of it that one begins to crave when the journey is long and hard.  

Yes, life with the Egyptians sucked.  But walking through a desert with no water was no picnic either.  And the Israelites figured at least they knew what to expect from the Egyptians, no dream of a better life, no  promise of a better land, could comfort the pain they were facing on the journey. 

Can you relate to that?  I absolutely can!!!  The past two and a half years have been a journey to MY Promise Land.  And there are days it is harder than I ever could have imagined!  There are so many days I want to give up, go back to what I knew before - no books, no papers, plenty of time for my family and friends.  But I know that isn't where God wants me.  That is not where I will find fertile fields and abundant harvests.  That is not the place God has always planned for me to be.  And the journey to this Promise Land, though hard, is part of God's plan for me.  

The journey to YOUR Promise Land is part of God's plan for you too.  I don't know where you are today, perhaps you are already in your Promise Land, if you are, I am so happy for you!   Enjoy it, live it well.  You are right where you are meant to be!  But if you're not, are you willing to consider where your Promise Land might be?  Are you willing to start the journey?  It won't be easy, I don't say that to discourage you, because this is a journey you absolutely must make.  But I want to be honest, it will be hard.  But it will also be so very, very worth it.  

It is time, join me on a journey to the Promise Land.  It's where God has always planned for you to be!