Thursday, May 28, 2009


My heart is just so heavy today. Yesterday I was assaulted with desperate prayer requests.

***David just 11 years old an orphan adopted from Ethiopia is in his final stages of cancer. He can no longer see. He is suffering greatly. His parents are now just praying that God will take him Home.
***Amber 14 years old is also not winning her battle against cancer. My sister told me she was picking out the clothes she would wear at her funeral.
***Dear friends with their livelihood in jeopardy due to an unfair situation.
***The 17th surgery for my friends 10-year old daughter... she's still beating the odds 7 years after a near-fatal accident.
***Still praying daily for the VanZantens who are fighting to get past the issues with Baby Eli’s heart.

Sickness, broken hearts, poverty….they are all around me and they make my heart so heavy. I know the answer to this problem seems simplistic, but so often we overlook it. PRAY! Our hearts break, our eyes overflow with tears, yet so often we forget to PRAY! We question, we scream, we worry, we fret, but we don’t PRAY!

Here’s my encouragement for today….. PRAY! Stop right now and PRAY! Whenever you think of David and Amber and Baby Eli today, PRAY! When you feel worried or scared, PRAY! When things are going well, PRAY! I encourage you today to PRAY! Get your hand off that mouse right now and PRAY!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

My dear friend had this as her Facebook status yesterday: It is a waste of time to think about things when I could be praying about them. So don't think about this blog at all.... don't mull over whether I'm right or wrong.... don't waste time even commenting on it. PRAY!

Right after I finished posting this, Noah came down the stairs terrified. He had a nightmare. I asked what it was about. He said, "War." Then he said, "Alex got killed." I practiced what I had just preached to all of you. I pulled him into my arms and prayed with him. I wanted to add Alex to my little list of prayer requests here, because I believe that sometimes God speaks to us in our dreams. I believe that Alex needs an extra hedge of protection around him TODAY. So please also pray for my step-son Alex Kastner. He is in Afghanistan serving our country right now.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Who's controlling you?

I was reading The Love Dare over the weekend, and this struck me:

If you’re irritable, it’s because you choose to be. If you can’t function
without a clean house, it’s because you’ve decided no other way will do.
If you pick at your mate more than you praise them, it’s because you’ve allowed
your heart to be selfish.

I have long maintained the only person you can control is yourself, and no one else can control you unless you let them. When my children say to me, “He makes me so angry!” I always tell them, “You allow yourself to be angry. He can’t control you!” But this is so much easier to say then to live out!

I have this horrible flaw. I want everyone to approve. I cannot stand for people to disapprove of or doubt my decisions. I am a people-pleaser, and I just want to make everyone happy. This leads me to worry about EVERYTHING! I wonder what will my mother think of this? What will the people at church think of that? Even what will the checker at Pick ‘N Save think when I buy that? I give so much control to others in my life, important (my mom) and not so important (checker at Pick ‘N Save).

Here is the biggest problem with this, quite frequently God calls us to do things that make sense to no one. [Think Noah and the Ark, Joshua at the Battle of Jericho, Peter walking on water.] Often we are asked to step out in faith believing that His ways are not our ways, and to others we must look at best silly but oftentimes even insane. The more control I give to others by worrying what they will think, the less control I give to God.

What’s a people-pleaser to do? I guess I can choose to follow the example of any one of those Biblical heroes: Noah, Joshua, Peter. I choose Peter. I actually like how Peter starts to sink when he focuses on the wind and waves. I can practically see myself starting to sink into a sea of faces. The faces of all those people I am so worried will disapprove of me. I like even more what comes next. Peter is saved when he LOOKS AT JESUS. That is just so poignant. Focus on Jesus! Keep your eyes on Jesus! Do NOT worry about what anyone else will think. Do not fret that this or that person might be watching you and judging you. Keep your eyes on Jesus! Seek God’s will and then with your eyes firmly fixed on your Savior walk across those waves and triumph over all that disapproval!

So that's what I'm gonna do! This people-pleaser is turning in her membership card and vowing with everything in her to keep her eyes affixed on her Savior and pleasing Him alone. Will you join me?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Thoughts on jealousy

Last night John and I watched Not Easily Broken. It was at least a “3-cry” movie. It is about marriage and is based on a novel by T.D. Jakes. At one point, the wife confronts the husband because she suspects he is having an affair. She asks, “Did you sleep with her?” He tells her he did not, but he tells her he does have feelings for the other woman. The wife collapses back against her pillow deeply wounded and says, “She’s stolen your heart from me?” The scene was especially poignant for me.

I have long maintained that it would be much worse if my husband had an emotional affair then it would be if he had a physical affair. It would hurt much more to know that his heart had been captivated by another woman. Perhaps that is why Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27 – 28 He knew that a sin does not have to be carried all the way through to commission to bring devastating results.

John gets irritated when I am on the computer when he is home. It does not matter if I am on the computer writing or working or if I am on the computer playing on Facebook or chatting. It drives him nuts! This week it came up during the American Idol finale. I was rapidly commenting, chatting, and posting on Facebook during the finale. He was hurt and irritated because he was sitting right there and I still had to be on Facebook conversing with other people. As I walked up the stairs to go to bed that night, God started ministering to me: John has a right to be jealous. You have very little time with him home. He has a right to be jealous when you spend some of that precious time ignoring him. Then God took it further by showing me jealousy is not a sinful emotion, even He feels jealousy.

For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. Deuteronomy 4:24. God wants my affections, my time, my HEART! How it must wound Him when someone or something else steals my heart from Him. Lately my life has heated up to a rapid boil. The first things to be sacrificed on my altar of craziness always seem to be: prayer and Bible study. I let my heart be stolen by a stupid job, by needing a cleaner house, by Facebook over and over and over again, and God has a right to be jealous!

My God and my husband, in that order, deserve my whole heart. They have a right to be jealous when I allow busyness, socializing, even service to steal my heart away from them. So today I am going to purpose in my heart to stop giving my heart away to others, to strive for a better balance (even in the busy times) which gives my God and my husband their proper places in my heart.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Thank you Jesus for this truck [car] (part 3)

It has been a long week full of ups and downs for the Kastners. On Monday, I used my grocery money to pay the tax/title/license fees on the new truck. On Tuesday said truck died. We fought hard all week to cling to our hope and not get discouraged.

At one point, John said to me, “Babe, God came to Satan and said, ‘See John & Jami. See how they are praising me for that little piece of junk truck.’ Satan said, ‘Sure they are praising you for that truck. You gave them what they wanted. See what they do if you let me take that truck away.’” Well, as discouraged, confused and even angry as we were, we REFUSED to stop praising Him this week. We were NOT about to give Satan even a tiny victory.

The news of a miracle coming our way came right away Tuesday night. We started praying but did not want to broadcast it until it came to pass. Last night it came to fruition. Our Pastor and his wife have been looking for a new vehicle. On Tuesday they both came to the same conclusion at the same moment, God wanted them to give their old vehicle to us. The fact that they both had the idea at the same time was confirmation enough for them, but the fact that the vehicle had been given to them many years earlier when they were in need just sweetened the deal. They felt it was the legacy of this car to be given again to a family in need.

Last night when we went to pick up their old Buick LeSabre, they apologized over and over for the car. “It doesn’t have any automatic locks or windows. There are some scratches and the paint is peeling. We just hope it will last you for awhile.” I was thinking, “Are these beautiful, generous people seriously apologizing to us for the condition of the FREE car they are giving us?”

So it seems in 7 days God has taken us full circle: answered our prayers with a truck which was taken away only to receive a completely free secondary form of transportation. During that seven day cycle, I have learned A LOT. So here goes.

1. …if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously…. Romans 12:8

My Pastor is a very eloquent man. God speaks through Him on a regular basis and in mighty ways. Yet some of the lessons I have learned the best from him have been through watching him model what the Bible says. This was one of those times. I watched he and his wife live out this verse in real life, and I took notes. I vowed that no matter how desperate our situation gives, we will keep on contributing to the needs of others. We will keep on giving generously of our time, of our love, of our home, of our food. No matter WHAT the Kastners will follow this example and strive to continue to live out this verse.

2. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9

Throughout the past few days, I have over and over again had to come to grips with the fact that we may never “know why.” We prayed and prayed and prayed about the decision to get this specific truck. We did homework. We test drove. We were as careful as you can be when you are looking to buy a piece of junk. Yet still the truck died just four days after we got it. We may never be able to answer the question of why on this one. We just have to trust that whether we find out why or not, we KNOW that His ways are best.

3. Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. Philippians 1:12

On Tuesday after I blogged about the truck dying, I received an e-mail from a friend. She had received a letter telling her she was being offered the job she wanted. The next day she received notice that she was supposed to have received a rejection letter but the wrong letter was sent to her. She said my blog inspired her to not to give up. If she is the only person who was encouraged through our suffering, it is worthwhile. If others are pointed towards Jesus, given the hope to go one, encouraged to greater heights of faith, that makes what we are going through worth it.

So here I am at the close of a topsy turvy week. I am praising God for his miraculous provision. I am so grateful for the generosity of His people. But let me end this blog like I ended the last. Don’t you dare think for one second that I am any more safe and secure in my Father’s arms today than I was four days ago. This has been a difficult week, but through it all I have rested safe and secure in my Father’s arms.

This week has reminded me a lot of one of my favorite songs, Blessed be Your Name. This week I have FELT this chorus DEEPLY: You give and take away. You give and take away. And through the whole entire thing, I can very honestly tell you that I did follow through with the end of the chorus: My heart will CHOOSE to say. Lord blessed be Your name. So now this Saturday I say: Thank you Jesus for this little old Buick LeSabre and the legacy of generosity it represents.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Thank you Jesus for this truck (part 2)

The feelings are still all jumbled in my brain and my heart, so please excuse me if they come out a mess. John called a little bit ago to tell me that the truck was sputtering, spewing out blue/black smoke, and would not go over 30 miles per hour. My head spun and my stomach started to hurt. I full well know all the proverbial sayings which fit this situation: you get what you pay for, buyer beware, be careful on craigslist (okay that one’s not really a proverb). Yet they don’t help at all. When we were sitting on the side of that street after test-driving this thing, we were nervous and we prayed, and every day since then we have nervously waited as John turned the key fearing that our worst suspicions would be confirmed and the cheap p.o.c. (piece of crap) would reveal its true colors.

So now that our worst fears about this truck have been realized, what do we do? How to reconcile the blog of three days ago Thank you Jesus for this truck with today’s blog?

I guess the first thing you do is pray, and you rally the troops around you to pray. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 You pray because He holds all the answer. You pray because He is all powerful. But being gut-wrenchingly honest, you pray because it is about the only thing you can do.

Next I think you remind yourself that He is in control. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth (or this truck) give way and the mountains (or this truck) fall into the heart of the sea, Psalm 46:2 This whole situation did not take our God by surprise. He is not wringing His hands wondering what to do. He can see the final outcome, and He is in control even when it feels out of control.

Finally, you remind yourself that He has your best interest in mind. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 No matter what it feels like. No matter what it looks like. God is working things out for your ultimate and eternal good. Never forget that no matter how badly Satan tries to tell you otherwise.

I wanted so badly to just gloss over this situation. To only blog about the nicer things. To only reveal the less embarrassing foibles of the Kastners. But I felt such a strong urging from God to lay this all out there. I think it is mostly because I need all of you who read this blog to please PRAY for us. We are discouraged and unsure of what to do. We need God’s touch, guidance, and help.

So there it all is. The dirty laundry laid out for you. But no matter how ugly my pile of laundry looks, don’t you dare doubt for one second that I am JUST as safe and secure in my Father’s arms as I was three days ago. Therefore I am going to end this blog with what might seem like nonsense, but makes a whole lot of sense to me and God. “Thank you Jesus for this truck!”

Monday, May 18, 2009

Thoughts on commencement

I attended my brother’s high school graduation ceremony yesterday. Wow! Note to high school administrators: We are all just there to hear the name of our graduate. So PLEASE keep extraneous items to a MINIMUM! I guess an hour and a half is not TOO bad; however, it was only a class of 52 ! Also, I spent the entire time trying to entertain Hannah. We tried two suckers (compliments of Riri). It was not noted prior to the suckers being given, however, that they were gum-filled suckers. While I fully believe that gum is from Satan (as my children have been known to loudly proclaim up and down the grocery store aisles), as the Bible says, “There is a time and place for everything.” So gum-filled suckers it was. Those did not last too long so it was on to letting her play Block Breaker on my phone. This only resulted in a very sticky Blackberry. She kept poking the lady in front of us in the butt and kicking the lady next to us. It is a wonder that I caught ANYTHING from the ceremony at all! But I did catch a few things, and here are my thoughts.

1. Amanda Livoti composed a song! WOW! Our little Amanda, just 17-years old, composed a song! Guess what? It was good too! As we all know, I’m up for any opportunity to bawl my eyes out, and her song Momma Remember When was the perfect opportunity. It wasn’t just the message of the lyrics that was hitting me so hard. It was Amanda standing up there singing too. The whole time she sang, I kept thinking: before I know it my baby will be that big. The other day as I sat on the couch with children draped all over me, I said to John, “Ten years ago we had NO children.” He said, “Yup.” I continued on, “In ten years, Noah will be 19, Jeremiah will be 17, Elijah will be 15, and Hannah will be 13. AH! I cannot take that!” One of the biggest themes echoing through my brain after yesterday’s commencement ceremony was, “Cherish every moment! They pass oh so quickly!”

2. Dan Mamerow has my vote! That kid was FUNNY! His valedictorian speech had me and all the others smushed in that gymnasium rolling on the floor. Mark my words, this kid will make it big someday. He got me thinking about all the potential represented in that gym, and even in my household. I have these four beautiful, intelligent, amazing children who love Jesus with every fiber of their little bodies. Jeremiah constantly says to me, “Momma, it’s okay that I love Jesus more than I love you right?” I always tell him DEFINITELY! Oh the potential represented in these four little children who love Jesus so much. Multiply that potential by all the Christian households in my community and state and this nation. Why are we NOT taking over this world with the love of Christ?!?! The next theme was, “Potential! Potential! Potential! Now don’t waste it!”

3. Finally, Seth Haugh graduated! Really, truly? My little brother graduated? Wasn’t it just two minutes ago the little guy came to live with us? Wasn’t it just two minutes ago that Phil Rouse was throwing a temper tantrum over musical chairs at his sixth birthday party? Wasn’t it just minutes ago that his six-year old little hands were lifting up my wedding veil to give me a kiss? I know this theme is a repetition of the earlier one, but I think it bears repeating. Cherish EVERY moment. Stop grumbling and moping around in the ick of this day. Look past the constant messes your 2-year old is making. Stop focusing on the mounds of homework. Don’t emphasize the lack of sleep, the lack of money, the lack of free time. Cherish these moments! Whether you are in high school, whether you have little kids, or whether you are facing an empty nest, cherish the season you are in because before you know it this season will pass and you are sure to be nostalgic over at least one part of its passing.

While I did get a lot out of that commencement ceremony, I am still very, very, very glad not to have to endure another for quite some time, and I hope that my little lessons gleaned from a long, sweaty, and arduous graduation ceremony will minister to you. God bless and have a GREAT day!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Danny Gokey is NOT the American Idol

So by now I’m sure you all know it, Danny Gokey got eliminated from American Idol. I have allowed myself to mope around for several days and now I think I am finally ready to face my fears and blog about it. I fully believe what I blogged about last month – that if God had wanted Danny Gokey to be the American Idol, NOTHING would have stood in Danny’s way. However, the question I faced this week is what do you do when your will and God’s will don’t line up? I so desperately wanted Danny Gokey to be the next American Idol. I wanted a Christian to win American Idol. I wanted to be able to say I am once removed from knowing the American Idol. I really truly think Danny was the best of all of the Idol hopefuls. So what to do when God’s will doesn’t line up with Jami’s will?

The main character in my favorite movie, Facing the Giants faced this same question. In the movie, Coach Grant Taylor struggles through many different situations where his will is not lining up with God’s will. One of those situations is in the area of fertility. He and his wife have been unsuccessfully trying to have a baby. At one point, he asks his wife, if God never gives us a baby, will you still love Him? I paraphrased this question when I asked it of my husband recently. See we have a couple of chronic situations going on in our life. One major one is rapidly approaching a culmination. We are praying for relief and cautiously optimistic that this “thorn in our flesh” will be removed soon. But I asked him this week, if God doesn’t remove it, will you still love Him?

To be honest, I struggle a little when my will doesn’t line up with God’s will. I know that His ways are higher. I know that His plan is way better, but sometimes like a stubborn child I cling tightly to my way. I was seriously and truly in a bit of a funk Thursday and Friday. My American Idol had been eliminated, and while I fully believed God had bigger and better things for Danny Gokey than American Idol, I was still a little salty that he was out of the game. I think Danny himself was handling the rejection better than I was. (see this video) But once I got past my petulance, I started thinking about God’s will again. I started realizing that there are so many things on this earth which will leave us without an answer to the question, “Why?” We can guess and speculate. We can come up with theories and ideas, but there are some things we just will never know for sure. Because of that, we have to constantly work to say to God, “Not my will but yours. Not my way but yours.”

If you are facing a difficult situation today, if you are up against a formidable enemy, I think the best way to handle it is to face the fight with cautious optimism. Be honest and tell Him what you want. But be prepared for the fact that His will may not be the same as your will in this situation. Be confident of this fact: no matter what, His will is better than your will.

I am hopelessly addicted to the television show House. In a very funny episode, he once quoted the “great philopher Mick Jaegger.” Mimicking House, I often say (even sometimes sing) these words to my children too, “You can’t always get what you want.” For Christians I think the key to this sentiment is in this part of the lyrics, “you get what you need.” Maybe that’s the secret? When our will doesn’t line up with God’s will, we can take comfort in the fact that even if we didn’t get what we wanted, we always get what we need.

Thank you Jesus for that truck!

“Father God, please provide a second form of transportation for this family.” I have been praying these words faithfully for the past five months. Over the past year, God had taken us from a two-car family with two car payments to a one-car family with one car payment. We believed strongly that this was the responsible thing to do and was one way that God was going to rescue us from our financial troubles. Initially, it was not so bad. It was winter. We homeschool. I work at home. Besides groceries and errands, we only have to leave the house for church and AWANA. Social events were difficult, but we were managing. The worst part was trying to squish all of my grocery shopping and errands into Thursday night, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday afternoon, the only times John was off.

Then spring came, soccer started, and things started heating up. The kids and I walked 1.5 miles one way to soccer practice, sometimes twice a week. We tried to arrange rides sometimes, and my family helped as much as they could. However, with four children you don’t fit in anything but a mini-van or Suburban. It was difficult, and even though I have law-enforcement officials reading this blog (close your eyes Aimee), I will admit that a few times I squished all four of them in the back of a sedan (two in one seatbelt). Only for very important things like we were freezing and needed to get home from soccer or when we went to see Danny Gokey. (Hush! That was VERY important!) The stress had really started building this week as my work schedule has been getting busy again too. I prayed at least once this week, "God something has GOT to give. I cannot do this anymore."

After five months of praying the same thing every day and not really having any idea how God would answer that prayer, I am typing this with tears in my eyes because I get to tell all of you: we have a second vehicle! We have been scouring Criagslist for junker trucks, old vans, even a few hatchbacks. We set the bar VERY low, maximum price $1000 and eventually upped it a little to $1500. We e-mailed and called on hundreds of vehicles. We looked at two last night and came home with the second. It is a 1994 Dodge with high mileage. It is a beast of a truck - big bed, huge engine. The exterior is rough, and there are a couple of things wrong with it, but we are thrilled!

This morning when I looked out the front window and saw it parked in front of our house I wanted to cry. As I walked this morning and prayed, I kept wanting to jump up and down and scream when I said, “Thank you Jesus for that truck!” And as I prayed, I couldn’t stop coming back to it, “Jesus please heal Hannah’s little eyes. Let the patching work and strengthen her eye. Help her to keep that patch on. Oh and THANK YOU FOR THAT TRUCK!” It kept creeping back into my prayers.

Before we went looking at the trucks last night, when we got to the first truck, when we got to the second truck, and before we made the decision to take it, we prayed. We prayed. We prayed. We prayed. On the way home, when we got home, as we cleaned out BOTH of our vehicles, and before we went to bed, we praised God and thanked Him. When I woke up this morning, as I walked and as I prayed, I kept thanking God. But all of a sudden as I traveled east down Drexel Avenue, it hit me. It hit me hard and stark. God answered my prayer! I am not sure exactly how to explain it, but I prayed for this through every step of the decision making process, and I thanked God for it when it came to fruition. But I had kinda forgotten that this had been on my prayer list for a LONG time and God answered it. All of a sudden, I had one of those moments where the Bible became so real to me:

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.
Matthew 21:22
You do not have, because you do not ask God.
James 4:2b
And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious
riches in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19
Sometimes we fly through life so quickly. We never take the time to stop and look around us and realize all the things that God has given us, all the prayers He has answered. I want to encourage you to stop today and look around. I know you may have hard things you are going through, but I also know that there are very likely things that He has given you that you can be thankful for. Yes the Kastners have struggled for a long time with financial troubles that are deep and dark. But we have a happy marriage. We have healthy children. We have family who loves and supports us. We have a church family we belong to. We have TWO VEHICLES! Most importantly, we have our Jesus! He walks with us through the hard and the good. He guides us, He protects us, He loves us, He forgives us, and he PROVIDES FOR US!

I just can’t stop saying: Thank you JESUS for that truck! And I hope you’ll look around today and find things you’re thankful for too. Then don't forget to say, "Thank you Jesus for _________!"

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Fearfully and wonderfully made

This weekend God spoke loudly and clearly to me about being kinder to myself. I went to a birthday party for a friend I went to high school with. She and I have not seen each other since graduation, but through this wonderful thing called Facebook we have recently reconnected. Let me tell you all, this woman is doing forty WELL! She looks gorgeous! I did not see a wrinkle on her. She is either not graying or she is covering it up VERY well. She is fit and tan and well-dressed and adorable! You know what? I heard her say so many negative things about herself that night. I stood there trying not to gouge out her eyes with my jealousy realizing she did not see ANY of the things I was seeing!

I wanted to shout at her, “Be kind to yourself!” You are thinner than many others our age. You look way younger than forty. You are funny and sweet, and you have a heart of gold! Stop being so mean to yourself! All of a sudden I realized, I do the very same thing. My inner demons wanted to fight back, “But she is skinny! You are not.” I started to rationalize that she did not deserve to be so hard on herself, but I deserved my own self-abuse. But God wouldn’t let me go. He whispered to my heart and screamed to my soul, “I made you! You are my creation! You are fearfully and wonderfully made!”

As I rapidly approach my fortieth birthday (23 days and counting), I am so sad that I still have not completely learned to love myself. Yet realizing that I will always be a work in progress, I am trying very hard to remind myself to stop focusing on all the things I dislike about myself. I am trying to be kinder to myself. When I think negative thoughts about myself, I try hard to dismiss them immediately and move along.

I hope that this blog will reach out to any of you who struggle with your self-image. As Christians, I really don’t think God wants us spending too much time focusing on improving the way we think about ourselves. Every minute we spend with our eyes on our own self is one minute we could have been focusing on Him. However, at the same time, I cannot imagine that our Creator enjoys being told by His creation that He did not do a good enough job either. Today when you look in the mirror, don’t you dare grimace. When you step on the scale, don’t let out a sigh of disgust. When you want to cut yourself down or think negative thoughts about yourself, try something different. Try saying this: I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14. I think you'll find that it is hard to be negative when you are praising God. I also hope you will find comfort and come to believe that you ARE fearfully and wonderfully made.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

My mother loves me. This I know for sure. I have never ever doubted it. All of my life she has shown me her love. I am forty years old (okay fine ALMOST forty years old), yet my birthday is still a national holiday in her mind. I still get Easter baskets and St. Nick gifts from her. When she gives me a hug, she always does that extra tight squeeze and I can feel her thinking, “Mmmmm my baby.” Yes, I still am her baby.

So often I worry that I am failing my children. I am not teaching them how to clean up after themselves well enough. They live in a chaotic, crazy house. It is loud and disorganized and in a state of constant upheaval. I STINK at routines. I am great at making plans but HORRIBLE at following through with them. Were they stacked on end, the ways in which I am screwing up would reach to the moon.

But when I think back on my childhood, I realize that I don’t remember any of those things. I really don’t remember whether the house was clean or dirty. I do not really recall if my mother stuck to a schedule or not. I don’t remember learning to brush my teeth or tie my shoes or load the dishwasher. But I do remember that I was loved. I remember feeling important to my mother. I remember her sacrificing so I could have a swimming pool, take gymnastics and dance lessons, and go to a private school. I remember her popping popcorn with the top off on a rainy day and going down the curvy slide with us. I remember that every fiber of my being was loved with every fiber of my mom’s being. And it hits me….

It’s all about love, love, love, love, love…. Clean houses, mom’s with flat tummies, perfectly cooked meals… it is NOT about any of those things. A foundation of love is what a child needs. A child who grows up knowing to the core of his being he is loved is a lucky child. The mother who in spite of her own failings and shortcomings is able to convey this message to her child: you are loved. She is the successful mom.

My mom did at least one thing very, very, very right. She loved me, wholly, truly, completely and fully. She loved me. What a wonderful example for me to follow and what a wonderful gift she gave me.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom! I love you too.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What happens when you have too many irons in the fire...

I awoke this morning with the nagging sensation that I was forgetting something. I couldn't put my finger on it, so I just proceeded through my morning... start the coffee, load of laundry, intercede on behalf of others, start to work... OHMIGOSH! "Today is Hannah's eye doctor appointment, and I was supposed to take John to work so I could have the minivan!!!" That was only the beginning of a very stressful day. We ended up taking our first taxi ride ever. It wasn't too traumatic, in spite of the fact that the fare was double what I figured using the online rates. Moving along, we tried to sail through Hannah's eye doctor appointment, but just couldn't get out of that place without being handed eye patches Hannah has to wear for two hours every day. The surprises this day held left me drained and exhausted. They also left me thinking: I am so glad that none of this surprised God.

I often give thanks that my God and King is never taken aback. He is never sitting up there in Heaven wringing His hands thinking, "Oh no! How is this going to turn out?" Not only is He in control of my situation He has already provided a way out of it. The taxi cab was a way out for my forgetting to drive John to work. The eye patches are actually a way out of impending eye surgery. God is there when things get chaotic, and regardless of how I feel, He has provided some way out. It may not be my favorite option. It may not be what I wanted, but it is there, and it is a way out. I sure did not want to pay that much for a taxi, but I am very glad it was a way out of missing Hannah's appointment.

After a day of stress, fear, and disappointment, we made it to the fun part: a playdate at the park. I had a blast reconnecting with a former cheerleader, while our children made fast friends on the play equipment. I am so glad I made it through the hurdles of this day in one piece, and I am so glad that my God never has too many irons in the fire.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

What do others see when they look at me?

Today my little princess had her 3rd birthday party. It was a wild extravaganza of pink, presents, and princess-like behavior. At one point I walked into the bathroom and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I was not at all happy with what I saw. I have gained so much weight! Not just since having babies but in the past 18 months since quitting the WAC…wowzer! Wide load coming through! And the dark circles under my eyes…. Seriously! I should probably stop wishing I could get a black eye because I live with two of them on my face all the time! As I sat there assaulting my own self in my mind, I wondered: What do others see when they look at me? Do they see all those things I just critiqued? Do they see the extra weight and the other flaws? Do they see my wide load and wrinkles?

As I pondered this thought, a verse popped into my head. It was something I had read earlier this week, and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (I Samuel 16:7b) God is looking past my shabby exterior. He is even looking past my failed attempts to be good and pure and holy. He is looking at my heart. He sees how much my heart loves Him. He sees how much my heart WANTS to be good and pure and holy. He sees how much I desperately desire to teach my children to love Him. He sees how desperately I want to be a blessing to my husband. He doesn’t get hung up on what my outside looks like. He sees through to what my inside looks like.

Think hard about the context of this verse too. This verse is talking about David. It is referring to how David was the youngest of Jesse’s sons and how unlikely (from the outside) he was to become king. But God had looked at David’s heart and deemed him king material. For me it is helpful to remember that later on in life, David was going to doubt and fear and that later on in life David was going to lust after another man’s wife, commit adultery with that woman, and finally murder that woman’s husband. God knew this! God knew this was all in David’s heart. Yet God looked at that heart and found it to be worthy.

God doesn’t seek the perfect. (Good thing too because from what I have seen not too many of those exist.) God isn’t looking for someone who has it all together. He doesn’t need someone whose body is in perfect shape, whose wrinkle cream is doing its job, and who is faithful in covering up the gray. He isn’t even looking for a heart that is perfect. Not our God, His standards are not that high at all! Here is what He desires: a heart that loves Him... just loves Him. A heart that wants nothing more than to delight in Him, worship Him, serve Him, know Him, that is all He wants.

So don’t fix yourself up. Skip that silly wrinkle cream! Don’t stress about how many crunches you did today. Don’t spend even one minute wallowing in the guilt of already confessed sin. Love Him! Just love Him! Stop wasting time on the nonsense and LOVE HIM!

Friday, May 1, 2009

A bad rap for Martha....

You know the story don’t you? Jesus comes to town. Martha opens up her home to Jesus. Then she’s left to do all the work of having guests, while Mary sits at the feet of Jesus listening to Him. Jesus says, “Mary chose what was better.” Well what’s a Martha to do then? Who’s going to greet the guests, prepare the food, serve the meal? The food is not going to serve itself.

I will admit it. I am a Martha. When our church needs someone to cook a meal, I am there. When a new family comes to church, I jump to welcome them. Someone’s sick? I offer to cook a meal. The nursery people called in sick? I offer to help out. I am just doing, doing, doing; moving, moving, moving. So this story gets under my skin a little.

Of course! I would love to just sit at the feet of Jesus worshiping all day long. I would love to take long prayer walks, interceding, conversing, communing. I would love to savor every word I am reading in scripture and spend hours meditating on it. What a great world it would be if I could just spend my whole day dancing and singing and praising my Savior. But there are children to be cared for, there is laundry to be done and a living to be earned. I cannot spend my whole day relaxing at the feet of Jesus like Mary did. It just isn’t feasible. What then is the lesson? What then is this Bible story calling us to?

I have been a Christian for a long time, and I have heard this story peddled over and over and over again. The take I always seem to hear goes something like this, “Don’t be a Martha. Be a Mary.” But I would like to assert that there is nothing wrong with being a Martha. For it is the Martha’s among us that get things done. It is the Martha’s who take care of people and make life run a little smoother. Fellow Martha’s, unite with me! Stop crucifying your inner Martha! Stop chastising yourself for not being more like Mary! Instead be a Martha, but purposefully allow for Mary moments in your day. Find some time each day to stop and spend a little time with your Savior. No matter how busy life gets, do not allow Him to get crowded out. My Martha/Mary theory goes something like this: It is okay to be a mover and a shaker. It is okay to get a lot accomplished. These things are fine as long as you also remember to take a little time to sit at the feet of your Savior.

I am going to take this theory a little further for the mom’s out there. (I can do that because it is my blog.) Remember to take the Mary moments with your child too. I do this thing. I call it “Memorizing the Moment.” I will find myself in a moment with one of my children that is so sweet and perfect it practically brings tears to my eyes. I will stop and take a deep breath and whisper a quick prayer, “Jesus, please help me always remember this moment.” Last night I had one. It might not seem like a moment many would want to remember. I was awoken at about 11 p.m. to the sounds of a child screaming, “Momma! Momma!” I rushed to Elijah’s side and within seconds my Mommy sense (kinda like Spidey sense but WAY better) kicked in and I asked, “Are you going to puke?” Before he could answer, the answer was forecefully spewing out of him. I spent the rest of the night kicking off covers and lurching out of bed to run to his side each time he threw up. At one point, I was snuggling him back to sleep, trying hard to push the words swine flu from my brain, when it hit me. In ten years, he won’t need me like this. In ten years when he is puking he might want my comfort, but not like this. He won’t be this dependent. I won’t see that look of I cannot do this without you here mom. He might even just rush to the toilet all by himself and tell me in the morning that he was sick. I pulled him closer to me, inhaling deeply in spite of the fact that a hint of vomit still tinged the air, and prayed, “Jesus help me memorize this moment.” You know it is almost impossible to be a mom without being a little bit of a Martha, but I promise you’ll be a better, happier, more loving mom, if you give a little face time to the Mary that’s inside of you.

So give Martha a chance. I don’t think she deserves the bad rap she’s gotten, but her sister Mary got a few things right too. That’s why this Martha is going to wrap it up and post this blog, so she can go sit at the feet of her Savior for a little bit.
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