Faith · Love · Perspective

Anxious & Ichthus

Yesterday morning my anxiety was running high, like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai high.

daily mail burj khalifa
Photo Credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

After getting the kids around for school and on the bus, I told my husband that I was going for a quick 10 minute run. That was all I had time to squeeze in. He didn’t argue. I know he could sense my anxiety.

On top of our normal parent – work schedule, this week includes a lot of extras and one long car trip to a specialist. But I think the thing that really unnerved me was something our guest evangelist at church said yesterday.

His message was that God’s love is PERSONAL to each of us. (Heavy faith talk to follow)

Matthew 5:13-16 New International Version (NIV)

Salt and Light
13 Jen – “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 Jen – “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light” – Jen- ” shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

I thought this was all very uplifting. Not giving myself any credit, but this is humbly encouraging to do good works in whatever way possible for the glory of my Heavenly Father.

He closed his message by declaring that the signs for the Lord’s return are visible and increasing just as the old and new testament’s discuss. While we aren’t able to discern all those signs and know not the timing, each moment of time here is a moment gone and one closer to the next. The part that caught me is when he said we should all be looking toward this with joy.

I’m being very raw and honest here — I’m mixed with joy and worry when I think about this. As I internally debated these feelings for the past few days, it occurred to me that if I’m conflicted in my feelings it must partially be because I’m still holding God at arm’s length in some parts of my life. More internal reflection is currently focused on exactly where.

Absolutely I look forward to no more illness, sadness, injuries, and no more gut-wrenching evil. I desire more of that amazing joy and peace that I occasionally feel pass over me for all eternity. Have you ever felt that? It is truly hard to put into words – warm, not just happy but deeper than that – joy, light, peace, complete love. I don’t feel it with my family or friends, although I do feel deep love and comfort with them. It is much Much MUCH deeper than that.

My worry is about how bad it has to get. Am I equipped to handle it? Not alone, I’m sure. What about my children? What will their relationships look like? I know I went through a period of time in high school and college where I did things that I hoped God would just overlook. Pay no attention to the person behind the curtain (me) doing these things that I want to experience, but know are bad news… Not earned, not deserved and yet I asked and am graciously forgiven. Saved thru Grace not works.

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What about my high school acquaintance who proclaims himself an atheist, but rails angrily against God on social media? He curses against the God he declares not to exist. He is so wounded by his current situation it is hard for me to fathom. What about those who are so cushy and comfortable in their own situations that they are oblivious to the emotionally, spiritually, or physically poor and needy next door? What about the people being led astray by the glitz, glamour and empty promises of success?

I just finished a life application study of the book of Acts. I know that people will hear the message and choose not to believe in God or the Gospel. In these situations, Paul had to shake off his garments and walk away. He still cared for all people, but realized that his mission was to present the message and pray for the people who heard it. He couldn’t work in the hearts of the people. That is the job of the Holy Spirit.

As I write this, my anxiety diminishes. My job is to love the people and give them the message that God is real. He loves you regardless of your previous or future choices. We’re fallible, breakable humans. God is not the hypocritical religious leader or megachurch preacher asking for your money while ignoring the needy. He is love. His Spirit flows in the hands and feet of those serving others humbly. I suspect that almost everyone on this planet has encountered the love of God regardless of if they’ve recognized it as such.

Upon returning from my run yesterday morning, this was laying in my yard by my sidewalk. Keep your head up and your eyes open. God’s love is everywhere. Be the good and give that glory to Whom it belongs.

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Faith · Family · Parenting · Perspective

The lesson in the purple tiara

Bad decisions.

It seems to be a week of them for my six, almost seven year old little guy. This is a transition year where he needs to be more responsible but is still testing the waters of just about everything. Some weeks are smoother than others.

Yesterday morning, in the midst of the morning school rush, he decided to shred his 4yr old sister’s purple feathered tiara with scissors. He then hid the stem, but couldn’t get all the fluff collected before I walked into the kitchen to find him standing amidst the floating purple fuzz.

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All I could do in that moment was tell him I was disappointed in his choice to destroy something that didn’t belong to him. As a move towards reconciliation with his sister, he  let her take one of his stuffed animals for her show-and-tell that day. Then out the door to the car we went.

I am firm with my children that I love them always and everywhere – even when they do naughty things. On the flip side, as parents, we don’t let them get away with much if we are aware of it happening. They both have loving, empathetic hearts so they seem to truly understand the “why” after causing the hard feeling but are definitely not yet able to consistently see the action- reaction connection.

*Flashback* I don’t specifically remember these younger years of my life, but I certainly know I made poor, horrible, terrible, no good, very bad decisions. In 34 years, you could probably go around the earth a few hundred times if you lined up all my bad decisions end-to-end on a written piece of paper.

I know I carried the guilt for some of these choices around for a long time.

There have been intense prayers and moments of quiet meditation reflecting on my stupid decisions. Tears, guilt, shame, and anxiety. I’ve been there. It isn’t like I have many deep dark horrible secrets. Most of my bad choices were obvious and at least, semi-public. It’s more like you start digging a little hole and eventually all your little shovels of dirt end up making something bigger when they are all put together.

And then I realized something…

I’ve already been forgiven for these bad choices. I’ve owned up to most of them to the other person and most importantly to God. He already knew. He was just waiting for me to acknowledge where I’ve fallen. He allowed Jesus to come and pick me back up.

 And in all of this reflection – I’ve realized that the one person who keeps harping on things that happened in my younger years IS ME. It’s just me.

I need to keep forgiving myself. Just like I forgive my kids when they make bad choices and in turn, they forgive each other, I need to remember that I have a loving God who forgives me. I need to remember that patient grace that is extended to me and extend it on them.

They will learn just as they did yesterday with the purple tiara incident. “Life is a lively process of becoming.”- MacArthur

Psalm 103  is a beautiful psalm about forgiveness and love.

Faith · Family · Perspective

Jenny Grinch and the Spirit of Christmas

I’ve got my Christmas music on. I opened three more Christmas cards when the mail grinch-02arrived. I’ve read my devotion for the day. And still… it’s easy to see my reflection in the mirror as the Grinch. I don’t get it. I’m just struggling.

Could it be that I’m trying to juggle too many things right now? Home projects, work, parenting responsibilities, normal home upkeep like laundry & dishes, and then of course, Christmas preparations. I’m definitely not burning the midnight oil trying to get everything done. I was so cooked by the time I got the kids home, fed and in jammies, and spent 30 minutes on and off connecting with my husband while taking on the kid responsibilities – I cashed it in at 7:30pm.

Honestly, I think the root of it is the focus of Christmas this year. My focus since childhood has been on celebrating Jesus’s birth with church family and biological/ extended family. That is personal for me. Believer or non-believer, Christmas flat-out MEANS something to most people and it typically isn’t all about the gifts.

WANT, Want, want….

This year I’ve been bombarded for 2 months about “what does child A and child B want?” Can I be completely honest here? We live a pretty simple life. We work and are humbly successful. No flashy Joneses here. These children of mine are happy with sticks and rocks. No, truly they are. Child A got in trouble (repeatedly) for a sassy mouth and had his room cleaned out and stored in trash bags. He got to keep his bed, covers & pillow, and puzzles and books. You know what he was thrilled playing with when all the fluff was removed? Cardboard boxes and nuts and bolts from the junk drawer.  Child B likes to play with stickers, crayons, and markers. She is creative. She rocks her dolls to sleep and drags them all over the house in the blankets I used when my littles were babies.

gifts013Last night as I was talking to my husband, I realized that this is the drain I’ve been feeling. The focus on this holiday has been put on the material side of life. How much are you spending? Will my 6 year old like this $100 gift? Does my 4 year old want this $100 sparkly item? Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. Make it stop.

What to do?

My hubs agreed with me that this is NOT how we are going to live. So how do I fix this?  Do we outlaw gifts? We agreed that is pretty extreme and not really a mountain we want to climb with our families at this point. (A conversation will be necessary before next year though to prevent the madness experienced this year.) He took the first step by talking to my father-in-law. I also talked to one of my sisters and my mother about my concerns about the focus being too gift-centered.

I am actively looking for local options for our family to volunteer or celebrate OUR reason for the SEASON with others with a giving, humble, and loving heart. We will celebrate with our local church family this coming Sunday and again on Christmas Day. We will read the Christmas story and talk about its meaning. We will write thank-you notes for the gifts we do receive. If our home project is far enough along and I have an oven, we will make Jesus a birthday cake and invite a widowed neighbor over to share it. We MUST refocus on our personal reason for the season of Christmas. It speaks so much louder than words when we put our gratitude, love, kindness, and care for others in action.

I refuse to let this become just another holiday marked with material stuff.

Christmas Letter – Part Deux

Now that I’ve wrapped my head around all of that, I think I can punch out a fabulous Christmas letter. My Grinchiness was giving me writer’s block and I’m pretty sure it would have been a bitter bite to arrive in the mail.

Onward and upward. Time to write the family Christmas letter…

With Love – Jenny Grinch