Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Friends are like a box of crayons.....

My friend Lori is such a blessing to me lately.  She thinks that I am the one that is blessing her.  We talk about spiritual life applications, and she literally jots down notes about what I say!  She thinks that God put me in her life to help her understand some of the things she is struggling through right now, but HA!  the joke is on her!  I think God put her in MY life to help build me up and encourage me.

What some of you may not know about me (but what my mother knows INTIMATELY and I think sometimes wishes she could change) is I am very, very, VERY hard on myself.  I very often struggle to find good things... really any redeemable qualities in myself.  I am the quintessential perfectionist.

Since this perfectionist has been through a very hard year, she is battered, weary, and little bit bruised.  Lately, however, I have felt myself gaining back a little strength, starting to have the ability to lift my head on my own and look around a bit.  The problem is... as a perfectionist. my natural tendency now that I have a little strength, is to critique myself.... to think of every single thing I've let slide over the past year... to get down on myself for lacking in this... slacking in that... failing in EVERYTHING!

Here's where Lori comes in:  she thinks that I am giving her all these great insights (gleaned only from a wealth of suffering I might add), but I don't think she fully realizes what she is doing for me.  She is building me up.  She is encouraging me more than I can express.  She is helping me to find a few things good about myself... in FACT!!!!  In a VERY, VERY, VERY rare occurrence... during a conversation with her this morning, I actually complimented myself!  ME!!!  Jami!!!  I independently found something good about myself and actually said to her, "I am really good at this."  What a BREAKTHROUGH!  When she says to me, "You have SUCH a great way with analogies."  She thinks she is just stating what she sees to be true, but it is SO much more for me.  It is like she is pouring soothing, healing oil on a aching wound.

About now I'm sure many of you are wondering... so what's with the Forest Gump blog title then....  Here it comes... I wanted to write this blog about Lori, but then I thought, "Well... I don't want to make anyone feel bad."  Will it hurt Christina's feelings that I singled out Lori?  Will Peggy worry that I don't value her friendship enough to blog about her?  Will my dear amazing sisters who are more valuable to me than gold think, "Humpf!  she didn't blog about me!"  Which is when I heard the voice of Forest Gump in my head, "Friends are like a box of crayons..."  (Actually friends are the crayons, but work with me here.)  While Lori is great and amazing and wonderful, she's not the only crayon in my crayon box.  I have many other colors and without them, the pictures I draw would be incomplete.  We all need Loris and Christinas and Peggys and Jodis and Coris...  (actually we all need one of those little crayon sharpeners, like the one on the box of 64 crayons, too... but that's not what this blog is about)...  And it is okay if right now most my pictures are heavily tinged with pink and some of the other colors get a little rest to hang out in the box....  Eventually I'm sure I'll go through a season of my life where I'll pick up the red more often or the green or the blue...

My encouragement to all of you is to remember:  Friends are like a box of crayons.  The more colors we have at our disposal the better the pictures we draw will be.  It is okay if sometimes you get a new crayon (or in the  case of Lori... you discover an old crayon at the back of the box you haven't used in awhile and move it to the front lines) and you LOVE to color everything that color...  That doesn't make the other colors any less important... any less valuable.  In my opinion, the prettiest pictures of life are drawn by those of us who have the most crayons in our crayon box.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Worship Wednesday: Get Back Up!

[sorry couldn't find this song to add it to my playlist and play automatically here... if you want to listen to it follow this link]

I have been waiting and waiting to do this song by Toby Mac for Worship Wednesday FOREVER!!!! It is an AWESOME tune, but week after week has found me TOO busy on Wednesdays to blog about this song! Well this week I am bound and determined to get this blog posted before this Worship Wednesday ends!

Wide awake in the middle of your nightmare,
You saw it comin' but it hit you outta nowhere

Have you ever had this happen to you? You saw something coming yet STILL it "hit you outta nowhere? I have and let me tell you what! It KNOCKS you to your knees! I've been the one to fall and the victim of hurt resulting from another's fall, and I tell you... Both situations knock you to your knees! HARD!

We lose our way,
We get back up again

Here's what we do: we lose our way??? Get back up again! Fall into sin??? Get back up again! Devastated by the sin of another??? GET BACK UP AGAIN!!!

It's never too late to get back up again,

Never, ever, ever, EVER! It is NEVER too late to get back up again. God will not run out of mercy! Jesus' redeeming blood NEVER runs dry! It is never too late so GET BACK UP AGAIN!

You may be knocked down,
But not out forever,

...because a knock down does NOT mean you are out forever.

This is love callin', love callin', out to the broken,
This is love callin'.
This is love callin', love callin', out to the broken
This is love callin'.
This is love callin', love callin',
I am so broken
This is love callin' love callin

God loves you, broken. God know you are, broken. God is calling you, broken. So go to Him, broken.

This blog is SUCH GOOD NEWS!!!! It is ok that you fell. It is okay that you're broken. He is calling you!!!! Just GET BACK UP AGAIN!!!

I hope you have a great end to this Worship Wednesday, and I hope that you will have the courage to get back up again. Remember: I'm routing for you!

Excising a skin lesion....

Here I sit in the doctor's office.  The positive part of being a mom is I didn't have much time to stress about this appointment.  However, now in the stillness before the doctor arrives... children safely deposited at my father's...  nightmarish city traffic successfully navigated...  I have to admit there's a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Just a little niggling feeling, "What if what the doctor suspects is nothing is actually something?" Ugh!  Then from another corner, "Is this gonna hurt?"  And then, "Meh...  Wish I didn't have anymore time to WORRY-- "

And with that thought my worries ceased.  In breezed Dr. Larson with two shots of numbing juice.  He returned with a copy of Brad's book (MUCH more blogging about that in the future, I PROMISE!), and then he left again for just long enough that the numbing agent could kick in (and long enough for me to start bawling over Brad's book).  The actual excision of the skin lesion wasn't that laborious, although his comment, "If I had to put money on it, I'd bet this was a little bit of skin cancer," was not exactly what I wanted to hear.  

Before I knew it the procedure was over, and I was on my way to pick up the kiddos with instructions to return in a week for suture removal and the pathology report.  It was a relatively quick and painless experience which was, however, fraught with life lesson for me (and for those of you who choose to read my blog).

1.  While busyness is often the bane of my existence, it also FREQUENTLY is a blessed distraction.  I scheduled the appointment to have this "thing" removed from my back WEEKS ago, but I really had little to no time to worry about it because I have been consumed with the start of school, work busyness, and another brain surgery setback.  Of course there is a time for everything and a season for everything under the Heavens...  Therefore, there is DEFINITELY a time for quiet and still retrospection.  However, in times when worries assail:  late at night when money woes have you awake, seated in the waiting room while the doctor is with your loved one, or over the course of seven days of waiting for pathology results, busyness can be a great worry antidote. 

2.  I thought of God a lot through this procedure.  Even though Dr. Larson numbed the area prior to dipping his scalpel into it, I still felt some discomfort even a little pain during the procedure.  I thought of how God applies a numbing agent prior to doing "surgery" on our souls too.  It is called the "peace that passes all understanding." I was just contemplating this phenomenon yesterday.  I was thinking back on some really tough times our family has been through and wondering, "How did we get through that?" I realized that God's peace forms a protective blanket around our soul not COMPLETELY blocking out ALL pain but numbing us from most of it so we don't get overwhelmed.

3. It is what it is.  I kinda had this wondering thought as I left the doctor's office.  I wondered, "What if this is something bad?" Then I stopped myself and realized... it is what it is.  My worrying will NOT change what it is ONE BIT.  How powerful to think of that in light of all the worrying I have done over the past 41 years.  It is what it is...   My worrying doesn't change it one bit..  SOOOOOO why waste one minute worrying then???? 

So now I'm just enjoying the rest of this day off work.  The sun is shining.  The air has a hint of fall mixed with summer.  We enjoyed some of the BEAUTIFUL Wisconsin fall landscape on the way to and from the city.  Life is GOOD and so is God!  I'm so grateful to be His and that He keeps me safe in His loving embrace. 

Have a blessed day everyone!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The best thing since sliced bread....

Early, early morning.... BLAH!  I was awoken at 4 a.m. because I had NO covers.  Hannah was awake as well so we just laid there snuggling until it was a respectable hour to get out of bed.  As I lay there gazing upon this perfect thing called my daughter, my heart swelled with love for her.  I whispered to her, "Hannah, if I tried for the rest of my life, I could NEVER explain to you how much I love you."  She said, "I love you too Momma."  Then I said, "I think you are the best thing since sliced bread."  She just smiled and snuggled in closer.

I was just talking with my friend Lori about this yesterday.  About how I try so hard to pour as much positive, as much love, as much cherishing into my children as possible.  I remember being a first year teacher and attending a seminar where I was told that it takes ten positive comments to outweigh one negative comment.  I have tried so hard to remind myself of that while parenting.  There are SO many negative things we NEED to say to our children:  "You forgot to turn off the light." "You missed a spot." "Do NOT hit your brother!"  Making sure to get in ten positive comments per negative can be a daunting task!  But I am a sucker for the daunting tasks, so I try HARD to make sure that my children know I think they are the best thing since sliced bread.

When I was a teacher and I struggled with a difficult student, I would employ the "catch 'em being good" theory of teaching.  I often use this theory with my children too.  See I have found that when you praise a child (or any person) all they want is MORE and MORE praise from you.  So if you "catch" someone doing a few good things and you recognize those, they want to do more good things to get more recognition.  I employed this yesterday with Elijah.  He was NOT interested in reading, but that is really not a choice I'm willing to allow.  So I started out reading some of the words I knew he would have to sound out to read and paused when I got to REALLY familiar words.  As he read the familiar ones I cheered and effused about how great he was!  Before I knew it his attitude had changed RIGHT AROUND, and we were zipping through that book!

I'm not sure why this is on my heart today.  I'm not sure if someone reading this needs to hear it to help them with their relationship with a child, a student, a friend, a husband.  I don't know, but I know this:  people like to be praised.  People like to be appreciated.  People like to be built up.  Stop and THINK!  Is there someone in your life you are struggling with right now?  Can you "catch 'em being good?"  Or could you even just remind yourself of the good things about them and then tell them those things?  Positive words and affirmation are like rain to parched ground.  Try to shower those in your life with some today!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jami's friend manifesto

Cultivate friendships which provoke you to love Jesus more/better.... Sarah Bowling

This was Sarah's FB status earlier this week.  It hit me like a slap in the face.  For over a year now I have REALLY been struggling in the area of friendships.  Truth be told it has been A LOT longer than a year.  Probably since I started coaching cheer at FHS and then on through when John and I led the youth group, I had a VERY full social life, but all of my relationships were mentoring type relationships.   I didn't really have any friends my own age or any who were at my same stage of life.  I started feeling the void left by this deficiency about two years ago.  I prayed and begged God to send me a friend or two.  I just wanted someone who was in my own generation.

What followed was a quick succession of friends who betrayed me, judged me, and believed only the worst about me.  These friendships left me battered and bruised.  In fact, JUST THIS WEEK I said to my sister, "I don't want any more friends!  Friends hurt TOO much!".

So when I first read that FB status it stung across my face leaving a red, hand imprint.  It hurt!  Because even this week my eyes have been furtively darting about searching for a safe hiding place where I could hole up and keep myself safe from these prickly, sharp-edged, pain causing things called friends.

Backed into a corner, setting up sandbags of defense I all of a sudden STOPPED as the application of that statement washed over me. I thought, "Wait a minute!  I have to BE the kind of friend who provokes her friends to love Jesus more/better."  That's all I can control!  The answer isn't holing myself away from the world becoming a friend-a-phob.  The answer is being the kind of friend who spurs people on to loving Him!

I learned long ago that the only person whose actions I can control is ME.  I can't sit around waiting for people to come to me.  I have to go out and BE the kind of friend I need.  So here it is:  my friend manifesto.  What follows is a description of the kind of friend I want to BE.

1.  Loving... I want to be the kind of friend who LOVES people.  I believe that we lead people to Jesus with love.  No one wants to be told how they don't measure up or what they don't do well enough in.  I want my friends to find love and acceptance in my presence.  I don't want to be an encyclopedia of how things should be done or how life should be lived.  I want to be like a pair of those ubber soft, warm and comfy slipper socks.  I want my friends to find softness, comfort, warmth from me... I don't care so much if they find cold hard learning here.

2.  Giving.... I want to be the kind of friend who would give the shirt off her back to help ANYONE.  I want to give lavishly of my time, attention and resources.  I want to reach out to those in need.  I want to cook meals for those who are laid up.  I want to give our hand-me-downs to bless someone.  I don't care how "down and out" I am... I never, ever, ever want to stop being generous.  I never, ever want to stop giving.  I want my friends to know if they need something and there is ANYTHING I can do, I will do it.

3.  Forgiving...  I want to be the kind of friend who forgives ANYTHING.  I want to forgive 70x7.  I want to turn the other cheek EVERY SINGLE TIME I am slapped.  I know that I am inviting pain by doing this.  I know I could avoid some of the agony by walking away from friends who continually hurt me, but I don't CARE!  I wanna forgive because I have been FORGIVEN!  I want my friends to know that our friendship is secure.  That no matter WHAT I will forgive them.

I guess as I typed this I realized that I want to be Jesus to all my friends.  I know that is a tall order, but that's okay because I am a stubborn old girl, and I will not give up on reaching that goal.  So starting today, I am going to do everything in my power to be the kind of friend I want to have.  One who provokes others to love Jesus more/better.  

Thursday, September 9, 2010

One year ago...


September 8, 2009... Some things are so fuzzy.  Some things are so clear.  I clearly remember sitting in a little vending machine alcove with Amber trying to keep our minds off what was going on in the operating room.  I hardly remember handing the kids off to my sister.  I remember Shane prayed with us before the pre-op nurse wheeled John away, but I don't remember much of what we said or did other than that..  I remember John left so quickly I didn't feel I had enough time with him and what if....  (Well you KNOW)...  What if that was the last time I saw him?  I remember how puffy he looked the first time I saw him after surgery, and I remember I cried tears of joy that he had made it through mingled with tears of sadness for how miserable he was.  I can't remember how long he was in that first ICU, but I remember the other family in the waiting room there.  I remember that their loved one wasn't expected to recover fully.  I remember eating TONS AND TONS of Noodles & Company.  I remember Amanda and Amber helping me watch the clock so we could tell John exactly how many minutes till he could press his morphine button.  I remember there was a hot male nurse Amber was sweating, but I couldn't pick him out of a line up.   And I remember the grumpy AWFUL nurse who preceded him.  I remember I hardly slept at all that week...  A few stolen winks on a family room couch... A few restless moments on an air mattress at my sister's.  I remember the AWFUL 2nd ICU, and its horrid brightness.  I remember the luxurious room we got once John got out of ICU.  I remember that it seemed we were at the hospital for years, but in reality we only spent 4 days there!  For BRAIN SURGERY! 

Daddy is my BFF

I remember tons of great nurses, doctors, therapists (most of the icky ones have faded away into fuzziness).  I remember my family and friends taking over care of the children, especially Cori caring for them EVERY spare unaccounted for minute.  I remember thinking over and over and OVER again, "The stress of all this should be killing me.  Why isn't it killing me?" I know now why...  because I was surrounded by a vast cloud of prayer.  I remember friends, family, even complete strangers blessing us with gifts, prayer, meals, food, advice, financial support.  I remember the sweetest of sweet (a little girl asking her daddy to send us 7 cents from her piggy bank), the crazy LAVISH (3 diff people gave us LARGE amounts - enough to pay the rent!), the very sacrificial (a friend whose family had struggled with unemployment for over a year slipped a folded up bill into my hand at church)....

Watchin TV in the hospital

But here it is ladies and gentlemen, what I remember the most:  He was right there with us through the whole thing.  He didn't drop the ball.  He didn't wring His hands.  He gathered us in His arms.  He buoyed us up with His people.  He healed my husband with a skillful surgeon from his tool box.  He carried us, He loved us, He provided for us, He stayed by us!

On our way home...
I don't know what you're facing today... I have friends facing foreclosure... I have a friend who just inherited FIVE children he is trying to keep together as a family.... I have friends struggling with a mysterious illness... Another struggling with the pain of divorce brought on by unfaithfulness... ALL of these needs and MORE are on my heart this morning.... A year and a half ago my heart would have felt such DEEP sadness for these situations.  Today, I feel a little sadness, but mostly I feel awe, wonder and expectation!  I know that I know that I KNOW that our God WILL come through for all of you in miraculous ways!  Just ask Him and then look for the answers.  

Last year, He pulled us through things I thought I could never make it through (a mini-strokebeing out of work for TWO MONTHS with no pay).  We hit rock bottom, time and time and TIME again last year, and we learned to cherish each and every day as a blessing from God.  I believe with all of me that He will pull you through too.  If you have a little time and want a little encouragement go back and read (or re-read) my blogs from last year:  August, September, October.... we were in the belly of the beast, and here we stand today having made it through by the grace of God.  He will get you through too!  So hang on and let Him carry you.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I will be there

Last night I took a midnight drive into Franklin to retrieve a little lost duckling.  Did I want to get out of bed when I had JUST fallen asleep?  No.  Do I even like driving?  No.  I did those things, because I love my little duckling.  Alas, every choice we make in parenting is actually part of a bigger lesson for our children.  For example:

Last night the lesson I taught Noah was:  I will be there.  I will be there when he is 10-years old and homesick at Oma and Poppa's, and I will be there if he is a teenager at a party he has no business being at, and he needs a ride home.  I will be there.

I wasn't just born with these supermom tendencies.  I didn't come out of the womb bearing the ability to rouse myself from a sound sleep and drive an hour ONE way to pick up my homesick baby.  These were superhero abilities I learned from my supermom.  Repeatedly, she rescued me when I was homesick at Kelly Rooney's or took me out shopping after I was cut from 7th grade cheerleading.  She flexed her supermom muscles last fall when my husband was out of work from having brain surgery, and we couldn't pay the rent.  I learned from my mom: I will be there.

This of course gets me to thinking about God, and how He will be there.  He will be there when things are great.  He will be there when things are not so great.  Tonight Jeremiah is going to be baptized.  It is a wonderful, happy occasion, and He will be there.  One year ago this week, we were facing the fear and uncertainty of the removal of a piece of John's skull followed by two months of unpaid time off work, and you know what we learned?  He will be there.  

...I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Joshua 1:5)

Last night I taught Noah a valuable lesson about his Momma:  I will be there, just like my Momma taught me.  But I (and my Momma too) taught a deeper lesson:  He will be there.  For:
Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts (or go and rescue...my words) to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts (or go and rescue...my words) to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:9-11)
As exhausting and inconvenient as that trip was last night, it wasn't without its blessings.  As I drove down highway 45, the song Dancing with Cinderella by Steven Curtis Chapman came on the radio.  Initially, I started envisioning my husband dancing with his daughters on their wedding days, but then a lyric hit me from outta the blue and changed my focus.  Before too long, the clock will strike midnight, and she'll (it hit me as: he'll) be gone.  All of a sudden I realized, Noah won't need me like this too much longer.  In just a few years, he will be a teenager and even if he does miss me this much in the middle of the night, he will NEVER admit that by calling me and asking me to come get him. I immediately thanked God for this chance to enjoy him still being a kid... and still needing his Momma.

I'm a little groggy today, and I have a BIG day ahead of me.  But I am very glad that I taught Noah:  I will be there last night.  I am glad I had some time to reflect upon how my Mom continually taught me (and to this day continues to teach me):  I will be there.  And that these thoughts turned my heart to remembering that He will be there ALWAYS.  Truth be told, I am also glad I had that one precious hour driving home with my son, listening to all the fun things he had done in the past two days away from me.  But the BEST part I think, was when I got to Oma and Poppa's, and he walked out the front door and looked at me and said, "Mom!  I am SO glad to see you!"  
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