Friday, December 31, 2010

Auld Lang Syne

This past year has been filled with it's share of trials and triumphs and as I look over the past 12 months I can't help but feel like there has been an incredible amount of growth in such a short amount of time. I will forever be amazed at how God orchestrates things for his glory, even when it might not seem like it at the time. Life on Cape Cod has been so full of blessings this year and I am thankful for each and every one of my friends I have here. I, of course, often find myself missing my friends and family in NH and daydream of ways I can connect the two places via a portal. I usually have to resign myself to being thankful that I have so many friends and family spread out over multiple states and there will always be a friendly face no matter where I travel. This last year has been a tough one in many ways as my family experienced several grievous losses, leaving many of us wondering why we haven't made a bigger effort in familial relationships, and for those closest to our loved ones who have passed on before us, very large empty holes that are simply unable to be filled. It seems that many people, my family aside, has dealt with many losses this year and my heart goes out to each one of them, as do my prayers. I am grateful for the friends and family that lent me their support during those hard times, and just as grateful for them during the good times as well.
Earlier this year my family had the privilege and blessing to be able to go on our first family vacation ever, and to Disney World! This was chock full of memories for us, and Rylee and Sammy are constantly asking if I remember this or that from our trip there. We are determined to return one day, when Sammy is a little older, when we have the finances to do it, and maybe even for an anniversary sans the kids... Who knows? All I know is this was one huge highlight this year for me.
Another one of the many blessings that have filled this year are the many friendships that have been forged through the various social circles I have been involved in. I have always been a fairly social person, although I have not always found my social niche. I fit in nicely among the theatrical, literary, and generally eccentric crowds. And then there are my Wagon Train. These close knit women are most definitely Kindred spirits, and in this crazy world, while I usually love just about everyone, I do not always find people I simply click with. My girls are such a blessing and I love each and every one of them. They are my encouragements, my comforts, and my confidants. With them I am not judged, just loved and accepted for who I am, flaws and all.
My children will forever be the highlights of my life and it is an honor to be their mother. They always know how to make me laugh, the exact times I need a hug, and have such a thirst for learning new things. Their creativity is boundless and to see the world through their eyes is pure magic.
Another one of the bigger things that have happened to Seth and I this year was the acknowledgment of the Call of God on our lives. He had been prodding us for years now, and both of us finally broke down and decided to answer that call. This is scary new territory for us, but we are both very excited for this phase of our life. We are working toward earning our Bachelors in Ministry, and have a strong feeling that we will eventually find ourselves in the church planting world, Seth in leadership and discipleship, and me in counseling. Whichever way this road turns, we are finally willing and excited to see what God does with our lives and how He uses us for His glory.
This was a year of enlightenment for me, as I have finally come to grips with a few lifelong struggles of mine. I have made some major changes in how I handle my ADHD by organizing my life and working hard. I have combated the PSTD by simply learning to let things go, and the anxiety by simply thinking things out logically- which can be hard for me as I think and process things purely on an emotional plane. With each of these struggles and shortcomings, I have grown leaps and bounds in overcoming them.
This was also the first year I have actually completed a New Year's resolution and finished my first novel. I have passed it out to a group of friends, who, when they find time in their busy lives, will read them and critique them so that I might be able to polish it and actually attempt to get it published- which might just be my resolution for 2011.
Another pit fall I seem to constantly find myself in is somewhere between keeping the house to the standards that I would love to say I keep for my family and reality, which is lived in. I plan on continuing to hone this skill throughout the new year, and I feel it is directly related to the aforementioned ADHD stuff I have been overcoming. I have also learned to let some things go, and have come to the conclusion that sometimes it is okay to let the house be "lived in" so that I may play and explore and create projects with my children. As the plaquard above my kitchen sink says, "Pardon the mess, my children are making memories."
My mind is now jumping around to many things I have learned and experienced over this past year, and my conclusion each times leaves me to know that my life is enriched with the people in it, and blessed because of God's constant provision. I have lost count on the many times that my friends, family, and church have come to be anchors and supports throughout the year, not to mention the many times that our needs were met in the most randomest of ways. God is awesome.
As the dawn of a new year fastly approaches, I hope that my perspective on life remains positive and that I continue to work on the self-discipline and logic that so often seems to elude me. I have vowed to value and treasure the people in my life, because they are often gone suddenly and we are left regretting all the time we could have spent together and now do not have the chance. May this new year bring opportunity, strengthen relationships, and the wisdom to listen to God's voice and calling. Here's to 2011 and the infinite possibilities it may bring.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Usually I am trigger happy with my camera, especially at holidays. This year however, I seemed much too preoccupied with spending time with family to take many pictures. However, I did manage to snap a few of Christmas weekend
Our Family Tree

Samuel tearing into his stocking.
When I was younger my mother decided to forge a new family tradition and started making stockings for family members out of canvas, painting unique and intricate designs on them. Every time a person is married and has a child, she makes a new one. I love these stockings and that my husband and children each has one.
Rylee examining the contents of her stocking.

Awesome

Sammy and his Night Fury toy.

Our Cousin Sophie

Nana Lou (my mother in law)

Our cousin Joshua

Rylee unwrapping gifts and wearing her pretty dress.

Julie's Mantle

Auntie Lori (my sister in law) and Sammy

My father in his spot
 Christmas at my parents' house is no longer a 5 am ritual, as  people congregate here, traveling from their homes. We usually start Christmas around 10 am, or whenever people are all gathered.
Seth had the honor of reading Luke 2 this year. This tradition as not changed, and I hope it never does.

My mother's tree.
 Christmas in NH with family was wonderful and magical, and I have a feeling that for me it always will be. It was bookended by a pretty epic blizzard that we were brilliant enough to decide to drive home in... We made it home and have another year of memories to treasure. As I write this I look around my chaotic house filled with toys and packages and know that this next week has its work cut out for me, but know that we are so very blessed, not because of all the gifts, but because of the people in our lives that they represent. I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas. I know we did.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Magic

The sound of my children's laughter will forever be emblazoned on my heart. Their wide-eyed wonderment as they catch those big fluffy chunks of frozen glory as they swirl and twirl through the air on their way toward the earth will be something I will treasure always. As I help my children make their memories, I often find my mind wandering to the bygone days of my own youth.
I am the oldest of five. I have two sisters and two brothers. We have had our share of adventures and memories, many of which are wrapped up in Christmas cheer. As soon as we grasped the concept of telling time, we began to camp out in the Girls' Room playing cards and reading books by the soft red or green glow of our night light. Every hour on the hour after Midnight struck we would knock on my parents' bedroom door pleading with them to get up and get Christmas started. My mother would usually cave at around 5 am when she would convince my father to drag himself, half-asleep, from bed and make his way slooooowly to the living room. We would all be gathered at the very edge of the hall outside the kitchen, trying to catch glimpses of the magic glow the Christmas Tree would cast from the living room. No matter how hard we tried, the angle was never good enough to catch that first view of the mountain of presents nestled under the tree. After what seemed like an eternity, my father would plant himself on the couch with the Bible and we would scrambled to the living room, hoping to be the first one to take in that glorious view. We would all find our stockings and a spot in front of the Christmas tree and my father would read the Christmas story from Luke 2. As we grew older, we all would get the honor of reading the Christmas story.
After the beautiful reminder of what the day is about, we would tear into our stockings, our favorite part of the Christmas Present Ritual. Somehow my mother always managed to find the best things to fill our stockings with, and no matter how hard I try, I do not think I will ever match her talent in stocking stuffing. Of course we all would get our token toothbrushes and chap stick, but she would hand pick things for each one of us right down to quenching our thirst for reading. My parents never had tons of money to finance Christmas, but somehow we always managed to get everything we wanted and needed. My mom had a way with making things magical and beautiful and stretching the almighty dollar, not to mention teaching us the basic virtue of being thankful for what we have.
I remember the year my parents would mysteriously retreat to the basement and build things like elves in Santa's workshop. We were forbidden to play in the basement that year as they would go down their religiously and build Something. I remember Christmas morning finding the biggest doll house I had ever seen. The floors were wide and it had carpet that matched the church and linoleum that matched my grandmother's kitchen. The outside of the house was painted cream and trimmed with brown just like our house. There was a jewelry box filled with Barbie shoes inside. There was a front door and windows and even some wicker furniture. Joshua got a wooden backhoe for the sandbox he could sit on and control the digger. Those toys got played with for years, and to this day I regret ever dragging my dollhouse outside and never bringing it back in. Years later, when my daughter was old enough, I asked my parents to make my daughter her own dollhouse. It is taller and beautiful and sits in her room. It, too, gets played with a lot. Those handmade gifts always carried with them much more value than the store bought ones.
Every year we would get a family gift in addition to the individual ones, and often times this would be the big ticket item. Sometimes it would be in the form of a board game, but there were years when even us kids would be surprised. I can remember the year my parents bought the family a VCR. We didn't have any video tapes, so they taped The Sound of Music off of the television so we would have something to watch. To this day I believe that video was the most watched movie in our house, in spite of the grainy quality and occasional snow. I remember the year they bought the video camera. That year is chock full of embarrassing home movies of my siblings and I (mostly I...) as we hammed it up for future generations. My husband will occasionally pull these out just to watch me pinch my nose and forget the words to Rudolf in my Christmas pajamas. Ahhhh, those awkward adolescent years!
One of the more amusing things I find at Christmas time is my mother's insistence on using a number system instead of name tags on all the gifts. I guess when she was a child, her and her brothers would shake their gifts and figure out who got what. My grandmother cleverly combated this by creating a number system and hiding the list in her unmentionables. Of course they all knew where the list was and figured out not only which gift was whose, but what they were. My siblings and I never set out to intentionally discover what our presents were, although we did like to shake the presents and proudly announce that each and every one was either a puzzle or underwear. There were those times, of course, when we would ruin the surprise by accidentally discovering a present or two while we were pulling back flips off of the window seat onto my parents' bed. And then there was the year that astounded all of us. I think I was about 9 years old. Caleb was not born yet, and Hilary was just about a year old. Jessica, Joshua, and I were pulling capers in my mom's room, and it was probably about a week or so before the Big Day. Her room is off limits around birthdays and holidays, but we didn't care. Flipping off of the window seat was too much fun. (Younger readers: do not attempt, you could break your neck and I was crazy....) We of course were discovered as flipping is never a quiet event when it involves 3 kids ages 7, 8, and 9. She hurriedly shooed us from her room and sent us in search of other means of entertainment. We awoke Christmas morning- well, we never slept, actually- the same as other years, and waited for our dad to find his customary place on the couch before we could rush the Christmas tree hunting for our stockings. It had to have been a good ten or fifteen minutes before Jessica stopped what she was doing and shouted, "Dad has a kitten!!!!" We all stared at him in astonishment. There he was, on the couch, cradling the sweetest orange kitten we had ever seen. We had all been hoping for a kitten ever since our cats Nicki and Casey died, but our parents had never given in. My mother thought the surprise was ruined the day we were jumping on her bed as kitty paraphernalia was scattered throughout her room in plain view. We never saw it. As we all forgot about the rest of the unopened gifts, we hurried to play with our new best furry friend. I remember holding him as we all pondered what to call him. He then leaped from my arms and scurried up the Christmas tree and back down. Such a spunky little kitty. "Frisky," I suggested. So it had been decided that until we could come up with a better name, Frisky he would be. He looked just like the kitten on the Frisky's kitten cat food box. It was perfect. The name stuck, and that cat has to be the single most wonderful magical cat I have ever encountered. He was individually all of our cat, making it a routine to rotate to a new bed each night. He always knew when one of us was sad, and he had the loudest purr motor. He knew all of our secrets, and frequented our thinking spots. I miss that cat, and to this day believe that orange cats have some kind of magic quality about them, although I have yet to meet another cat as wonderful as him. He died a few years ago, and I never cried so hard for an animal than I did for him. And while my husband may never be a true cat person, I will forever maintain that every home should have one, especially if he or she is orange.
These memories are endless and they continue to grow as I have my own children now and we forge our own traditions. Over the past 9 years we have come to establish that our Christmas Eve shall fall on December 23 and Santa brings the kids presents a day early, so that we can have the holidays open for the rest of the family while still having our special day to ourselves. One tradition that I carry on with my children is that Christmas Eve they get to open a present and it usually involves pajamas. We read a favorite Christmas story, and I happen to have two from my childhood: The Christmas Story and The Littlest Angel that are read often in our home this time of year. The children do not yet wake up every hour on the hour to drag us out into the living room to see what Santa has brought them, and I am not sure that will ever happen, even though I still have a hard time sleeping on Christmas eve myself.... After we have our morning together as a family, we pack up the car and the Golden Retriever and head North to spend the remainder of the holidays with our family. Seth's cousins host a huge family party and we love seeing everyone there. It is fun seeing all the little cousins play and watch the June babies grow. Christmas morning is spent at my mothers and she loves seeing my kids first thing on Christmas morning, perpetuating the traditions forged from my own childhood with the next generation. We gather around and read Luke 2, and this year my mother is revisiting her old tradition by creating stockings for her grandchildren this year so that my children too will know of Grammy's magic touch. This year will be a tad different as my brother Joshua and his wife are out in NY celebrating Christmas in their new home and my Grandparents are already south for the winter, but here's to new traditions. I am excited to see my brother Caleb's fiance Gabby, my sister Hilary, my sister Jessica and her girls and making another year of new memories with my family. Christmas for me is wrapped up in memories and making new ones. It is about spending time with the ones I love and treasuring those moments, as they are fluid and seem to pass all too soon. The wonderful thing about memories is that we can transcend time and revisit them as often as we wish.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Christmas Soapbox

We hear it in countless songs, we see it all over the television: it's the most wonderful time of the year. It seems split, however, when you look at the people around you. People are lonely, anxious, or irritated at the commercialism that haunts the holiday. People cannot get past that the holiday they celebrate isn't the only one celebrated, and get angry when wished something other than the holiday they celebrate. Some people are grieving, others lack faith, hope, or peace. Some people revel in the holiday festivities, joyous that they can give to their friends and family. People curl up in front of fires or gather together drinking hot chocolate and watching their favorite traditional Christmas special. Either people are happy and soaking up every bit of holiday cheer or they are miserable and wishing that this time of year would just hurry up and get over with.
I generally find myself all over the board on the holiday emotional rollercoaster, somewhere between the rise of holiday nostalgia and the fall of never having enough money to buy everyone everything I wanted to. Yet, Christmas is not about the soft glow of the Christmas tree. Hanukkah is not about candy coins. Of course we have our traditions, comradery, our share of distresses. That is all a part of this human experience we call life. These holidays are much more than all of that. It is a time to recognize the miracles that happen all year round. It is a time to find peace and joy in our lives that might otherwise be full of chaos and anxiety. Christmas, Hanukkah, and pretty much any other winter holiday is meant to remember what God has done in our lives, a time to cling to our family and friends, a time to pay it forward and make this world a better place to live in. So the next time someone cuts you off in traffic, rather than being angry and letting it ruin your whole day, think for a moment about what that person might be going through. Say a prayer for him or her. The next time you feel rushed or worry about which bills you can postpone and which ones you cant, think for a moment of the families around the world who do not have roofs over their heads, a warm place to sleep, or food for their children. As our children open their many presents this holiday, remember to be thankful for the abundant blessings in our lives. And if there is anything we can do to pay it forward, such as committing to a cause that helps other people dig wells for clean drinking water or provide food, clothes, toys, and medical care to children who are less fortunate than our own.
Matthew 25:40 "And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'" (NLT)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Million Things

It's that time of year again, friends. That time of year where we are faced with the reality that Christmas is just 2 paychecks away (those of us who even get regular paychecks), the stores are always packed, those familiar holiday songs that have been forever ingrained in our minds since we were children come obnoxiously back to haunt us over and over whenever we run errands, our children want anything and everything they see on the television commercials that air during their favorite programs, the bills seem ever growing, and oh yea... that turkey you have no idea how to cook but because you wanted to carry on the family tradition you volunteered yourself for the task only to pray that you don't somehow dehydrate and under cook it at the same time... Its no wonder that when Thanksgiving arrives most of us don't even feel like we have time to think about being thankful, let alone try to find something to be thankful for. And yet, we have a million things right under our noses to be thankful for and most of the time we take them for granted.

So when it comes to Thanksgiving, why is it so special to me and why do I feel that it is a very important part in American culture? Simple: It makes life happier. You might be sitting there reading this wondering if I have completely lost it, which is an easy assumption- especially for those of you who don't know me (and some who do.) I know, I know, there is someone that you rub the wrong way or that rubs you the wrong way that you will inevitably have to see at some point on Thanksgiving. Or you might be thinking that Thanksgiving is the perfect day for food consumption and naps with football games and parades humming in the background so that you don't have to think at all. I can understand that for most people, Thanksgiving is one of those given holidays that you know you have off. Some people don't have that luxury. And it is nice to have a day where one does not have to think. But I believe that Thanksgiving is one of those days meant for thinking.

First of all, most of us know the story behind the day. But to most of us that is all it is: a story. But think about this for a moment: when those pilgrims and those Wapanohoag that came together it was a true celebration of the first success those first pilgrims experienced. It was thankfulness for surviving and the providence of God, and for those Native Americans who helped them learn about this new world. That first winter here for the puritans we know as Pilgrims was devastating, so that first Thanksgiving was more than just a feast.

When was the last time we gave thanks for surviving? Or for the homes we live in? Or the cars we drive? Or the warm clothes, heat, and food we eat? I don't see any of us scrounging in the woods chasing wild birds so that we can provide for our families and hope to survive the winter. I know some of you hunt for sport, but these people hunted to survive.

Now, here is where it gets a little more personal for me and my family. My grandfather has made it his mission to learn as much as he can about our family and trace us back as far as he can go. And he has done an amazing job of it, not only telling us hundreds of stories about our forefathers/mothers, but instilling in us the importance of heritage. In order to understand who we are it helps to know where we come from. One of the things he learned was that we not only come from the Pilgrims, but specifically can trace us back to several. This makes perfect sense actually because they were a community, it would make sense that their children would marry. So when we think of Thanksgiving and celebrate, we have the benefit of knowing that these people that started it all were not just nameless faceless pilgrims from a story book, but that they were individuals who had stories to tell and lives to live. When we celebrate we remember our great-something-odd grandparents such as the Standish family, The Bradfords, the Carvers, and the Cooks. We know their stories and we understand that because they survived, because they were adventurous and bold, we are here now. These are the things that I have the privilege of teaching my children now, and I hope that they too will understand and share in the family pride on this particular holiday.
Another unique thing for us on Thanksgiving is that I married a man who is part Native American. He is not Wapanohoag, he is part Sioux. However that does not diminish the fact that we both come from people that contributed to this country's beginnings, and we come from people that did not fully understand or accept one another. I love to look at my family as "coming full circle". Our ancestors were from completely different cultures, and there have been rifts and angst over the years, but here we are, centuries later, sharing our histories and uniting as a family. Thanksgiving is a great reminder for me of these things.
So as we head to my Grandparents' house to celebrate Thanksgiving and then over to Seth's cousin's place for dessert, we find ourselves thankful for many many things, including our family and our heritages that our children get to be a part of.
I am also thankful for where God has brought me and my family in life. It amazes me as I look over the past decade and I see where I was and where I am. I see the many times God has provided for my family in the most random ways. This is where I feel connected to the story of George Mueller. He was a missionary in the nineteenth century and he never asked for handouts or money. He ran orphanages and would often never have enough food to feed the children. This man had incredible faith and would sit the children down for meals and say grace as if they would have a meal, even if he did not know where it would come from, and many times he was rewarded for his faith and God would provide. I think of times as a child where groceries would show up on the doorstep or a friend would have extra milk due to a miscommunication with her spouse and we were blessed as a result. I think of the numerous occasions where we were given grocery gift cards anonymously at times where we needed them most. I think of the random turkeys that were given to us because people felt led by God to do that, not knowing our financial situation. I think of the time we got a grocery card with a note that simply read, "He knows your needs and is faithful to provide." That note is still on my fridge to this day to remind us constantly that God is taking care of us no matter what might come our way. I think of the turkey we just received yesterday because some good people donated them to the base my husband works at and I think of how much of a blessing that was. I think of how my children are my little miracles. My daughter was born 8lbs 3 oz and a week before she was born the doctors were concerned that she was going to be insanely underweight. They couldn't explain the weight gain. Rylee had a perfect APGAR score to boot. My son was born after I had miscarried and I will forever be grateful for Samuel. I feel a connection to Hannah from the Bible who cried out to God for a child and God heard her and blessed her with a son, also named Samuel. (Our son is not named for the Biblical Samuel, but for my husband's oldest friends in the world: Samuel and Luke.)
I am thankful for growth in my life and the mistakes I made and had the opportunity to learn from. There have been some very trying times for me and my family growing up for various reasons I have covered in previous postings, and each time I have come out of it a little stronger, a little lighter, and a lot brighter. I'm being refined here, and while I know I will never be perfect, I hope that I can be used of God in wonderful ways in raising my children and sharing my testimony with others. I am thankful for the first, second, third, tenth, and hundredth chances I have been given and the grace God has bestowed on anyone who simply asks for it. I'm thankful that I can devote my life to God in return.
I am thankful that I was raised in a solid Christian home and that I have not only been born to parents who love me, but I was chosen. (See my Father's Day post.) There is something truly beautiful in being chosen, and for those of you readers who are familiar with adoption might be able to relate to this. I might not have been planned by my earthly parents, but God has a plan for me. I was chosen by my earthly father and my heavenly one. Yea, I think that is definitely something to be immensely thankful for.
I am thankful for college and the training that my husband Seth and I are getting in order to continue God's work and fulfill the call God has on our lives. I am thankful that we live in a country in which I can freely share my faith with others and not be arrested, beaten, or thrown in prison as a result.
I am thankful that my children get full medical care, that they are clothed, they have toys and books, and that they are well fed. My heart breaks for the countless children around the world that do not have these things based solely on the circumstances of birth. No child should go hungry or cold. I would love to see this change, and will do what I can to help. I am thankful that my church, and countless others will give of their time and money and pack countless shoe boxes with Christmas presents filled with toys and necessities for children that don't have the same privileges we take for granted, and all because of the Love of God.
I am thankful for my friends and family that accept me and love me in spite of my faults and idiosyncrasies. I am thankful for the call God has put on my life and for whatever comes my way, including future mistakes and troubles I might stumble through on the way, as I know it just refines me that much more to be a more effective tool for God's work and parenting.
So this year as Thanksgiving, and even Christmas, approaches, if you find yourself struggling to find things to be thankful for, open your eyes and look around. That is the perfect place to start. There really are a million things and maybe this year we should really take the time to think and count our blessings.

October Fun

It has been awhile since I have posted here, so here is a quick sum up in photos what has been going on with us. :)

Halloween tradition for the past 5 or so years has been for us to trick or treat with some very good friends and their children. This year was the same, although instead of trick or treating we headed over to another friend's church's Harvest Party.
Taylon as a Puppy :)

My Daughter Rylee as Piplup

Sami as a Kitty

Our friend Lori's dog, Romeo, as a kitty

Rylee

Trunk or Treating with various friends and their offspring

Our favorite Trunk :)

Rylee and me (Piplup and 40's Housewife- Seth called me Donna Reed)

Me and my son Samuel, who was also a kitty :)

Rylee and some of her favorite friends :)

As you can see, Halloween was loads of fun for us, and we can't wait for next year. There is nothing like playing dress-up with your favorite people and getting free candy is just a bonus. :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

On our way to Nineveh.

Ever since I was a child I knew that I was destined for incredible things. Of course, in my young mind, those things were greatly romanticized and exaggerated. I pictured myself writing best sellers, traveling the world staying just a few steps behind adventure, intrigue, and international wars, and then coming home to spin the stories for others to read. I saw myself dancing, singing, acting, writing, painting- you name it- and I was proficient at pretty much everything I set my heart on. Of course, as a child I did not put much thought into how I would become proficient at any of it, I just somehow thought I would be. Somehow I thought these grand things would make a difference and I thought that I would have to achieve these things to be a somebody. The thing is, anybody can be great. Anybody can do great things, and it doesn't require becoming famous or inventing new technology. World changers are regular people living regular lives. Our heritage is in our relationships, not our accomplishments. We can make the biggest impact by just living our lives, loving others, and doing our best to make this world a little nicer of a place to live in.
I may have once had grandiose ideas of what I was called to do and be in life, but what I ended up becoming was much greater than I could have imagined.
When I was a teenager my dreams of becoming a figure skater or an astronaut had faded into seeking after what God's call on my life was. Being surrounded by so many strong Christian people who loved me and learning all I could about what the Bible had to say about God's call, I felt that I was perhaps called of God to become a missionary. I was beginning to feel conflicted, however. I wanted to be a part of that Great Commission.
Matthew 28:18-20 "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Amen." (NIV)
This is reinforced in Mark as well. Mark 16:15 simply says, "And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (NAS)
So, I knew I had to tell other people about God and his love for us. And the logical thing for me to do was enroll in a Bible college and fulfill that call. I pictured myself living the remote jungles of a country whose name I couldn't pronounce, running an orphanage and school, teaching those children about the love of God. But for some reason I still felt the draw toward writing and acting. And in my mind at that point in my life I figured I couldn't do both. It was either one or the other. I could either stay in the states and write novels or I could travel abroad and be a missionary.
Off to Bible school I went. And boy, was I miserable. I struggled to fit into this new world of all or nothing. It seemed that no matter what I did, there was always something I was doing wrong and nothing was ever good enough. Whether these were expectations that I was putting on myself or expectations others put on me, it did not matter. I was struggling to understand what it was I needed to be doing and why I even went to that school. Life was not easy at that point in my life and I was quickly learning who I was and what I wanted out of life- and yes, what God even wanted for me- even if other people disagreed or did not see it. I had to take my life in my own hands and do the unexpected. I admit that the choices I made that followed this revelation were rash and mostly built on extreme emotions, nor would I recommend that for anyone.
So, here I was, in the heart of my first year at Bible College, dragging my feet and wanting to run the other way. The thing with the Great Commission is, it was instructions for all the world- not part of it. A person does not have to go to the far reaches of Africa and preach to remote tribes to fulfil the Call of God on their life. We can look in our own backyards. I also learned that being set apart did not mean isolate myself. I could still go to movies with my friends or listen to the music I liked, even if it wasn't always Newsboys, but sometimes the Beatles. I could still do theatre and write stories and make a difference in the lives of my friends. I began to adopt the ideas of St Francis of Assisi, "Preach the gospel to every creature, and if necessary, use words" and Mother Theresa, "If you judge people, then you have no time to love them." Powerful words from powerful people. But, God was not done with me yet.
In another twist of fate, I dropped out of Bible college. Actually, I purposely failed out. There were reasons, and some of them were ugly and not very wise, but there you have it. I failed out on purpose. I threw myself into a job and community theatre. I spent as much of my time with Seth, as at that point in my life, he was one of the few people that actually understood why I did what I did. I think that while other people didn't understand, and even some were disappointed in me, they all knew that sometimes people need to make mistakes in order to learn from them and grow. And that is what I was doing.
And then the trade towers in NYC were attacked by terrorists. I was making deliveries when I heard it on the radio. I thought it was some sick joke the morning show on the Oldies station was playing until I got to the dentist office I was delivering to and saw the surreal images of the second plane hitting the second building. About a month later Seth and I were married and a month after that Seth was off to boot camp and our lives would forever be changed. We were 20 years old, still trying to figure out life, but not wanting to do it alone.
And then I became a mother. This was a far cry from my lofty dreams of my childhood. I was changing diapers and cuddling an infant. And the words of Pastor David at my high school graduation ceremony came flooding back. He said, "The thing I like about you, Crystal, is that you get it." You get it. I had forgotten he had said that. I got what the Bible had to say, I got what this life was about. I got it. "And at the risk of scaring you half to death, you will be able to teach it to your children." I can't remember the exact words of what else he had said, but yea, he did scare me when he talked of me becoming a mother. But, here I was, a mother. And I had forgotten what it was that I got. So, here was a new plan before me. To be the best mother I could be and teach my children about God and his love. I was to raise a child to be a good member of society and what it means to be a follower of God. And it would begin with me cuddling that small little baby girl.
But life hasn't always been easy. Seth and I had been through a mess of our own troubles. We made mistakes together and learned and grew from those mistakes. I sought after God for comfort and guidance, and had long forgotten that there was ever a call on my life. Seth struggled in his own way, and even found himself running from God.
We found ourselves at a crossroads, both hurting. I was ready to give up, and I felt that my years of praying had gone unanswered. Seth was ready to fight for us. It seemed as if our positions had been reversed, but I conceded and we worked hard and got help. I had found that I was much like Jonah and that I was now in my very own proverbial whale learning hard lessons about myself and revelations about God's love and compassion. What I had not yet realized was that Seth was in the middle of his own Jonah story. He had been called of God a long time ago for great things, but had been running ever since. How is it that we were in the same story, but had no idea?
His fish was the ship he was stationed on. It was full of challenges and temptations, and the perfect place to hide from God. While I threw myself back into musical theater, and even enrolled in college in pursuit of a degree in psychology, Seth found himself suddenly in a position of spiritual leadership. He had become the Lay Leader aboard the ship, running Sunday services and a Bible study for his shipmates. Seth. There was a change in his life. A huge one. My prayers were finally being answered. We were getting stronger as a couple. And our focus was starting to be back where it should be.
Then the time came again where we needed to put in the request for our next duty station. My heart longed to be back on the Cape. Seth was not as convinced, but after praying about it, we put that as our first choice. We were told it was unlikely that he would get a repeat station, especially after spending the last 7 years in New England. And yet, here we are. We got the Cape again, and were back among friends. We got plugged into our church. Seth got involved in an internship program at the church and admitted that he felt we were back here for a big reason, but that he wasn't sure what it was.
Over the last year we faced some tough things, but nothing can derail us of what purpose God has for us. Something happens when God's people start listening and making choices based on what God wants for us. Satan hates it, and will do everything in his power to stop it. He likes to sew doubt and discord, but no matter what circumstances- from hospital visits, swine flu, and financial struggles, we have put our faith and trust in God. And through it all, God has carried us and led us through. Satan tried to sabotage friendships before they even had a chance to begin, but he failed. He failed miserably. Those friendships have not only budded, they have blossomed into a whole freaking rain forest.
Then I ran into some troubles with my school in regards to graduation. I had to wait and wait before I could finish my program and graduate. I am still waiting, actually, but plan on focusing on God all the while. The timing couldn't have been better. That Something Big that we knew God brought us to the Cape for as finally showed itself. I am returning to Bible College. This time I will be attending Forestdale Bible Institute and earning my Bachelors in Ministry. The purpose is to someday use my education and knowledge in counseling for those who need it. The call on my life is to make a difference, and that is huge. I believe we are all called to make a difference. The trick is being able to understand that we are not all called to be inventors or to write the Great American Novel (I think Twain pretty much beat us all to the punch anyway), but we are all called to interact with other people. This is where the difference comes in. God wants me to make a difference. I can do that. My ministry can work hand in hand with whatever Seth's ministry calling is too. It is hard to see where this will lead us, but it looks like it might be along the lines of church planting. Who knows. We are attending Bible college together and finally answering separate calls of God on our lives, but in a unified manner. This time, no matter how scared I get, I am not running. I will not focus on what other people think I need to do, nor will I put unrealistic expectations on myself. No one belongs on a pedestal- its a hard long fall from up there. I know this all too well. So here I am, real and exposed, doing my best as a flawed human to follow a perfect God. Our ministry will be for regular people by regular people, living the extraordinary lives that God intended. Crazy how things come full circle.
Some people believe in destiny or fate. I personally believe that it is our job to forge our own fates or destiny. I believe that God has given us free will, but the trick is, what do we do with that? I believe God has a plan for every single person, but  because we are people with free will, we might not always choose to go in the direction that God has intended. The neat thing about it is, however, that for those of us who are faithful in seeking after God, he can set us right, or at least make good things come out of not so good situations. This is clear in Romans 8:28: "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." (NLT) People are flawed and sometimes make poor choices and selfish decisions, but ultimately we can learn from them. Perhaps these things that make up our life stories and testimonies can be tools to connect to other people. Perhaps the mistakes we make and the troubles we find ourselves overcoming can ultimately bring others to God. So, perhaps this is our ultimate calling or purpose. Perhaps we are put on this earth to live our lives and be human, making mistakes and learning from them, so that other people can see how God can work and change lives; so that other people can have a relationship with God too.

Here we are, on our way to Nineveh.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Forestdale Fall Festival


To Blave...I mean, True Love

There is a place that is unlike any other I have ever visited or lived in. There is something special about it, and I think that no matter where I shall travel or move in this life, this one place will forever hold my heart. Curious why? It's the people. The people on this small crook that jets out into the sea, located in the Northeastern part of the United States. It might be unassuming to some, and an Oceanside escape to others, but for me it is another world entirely. The people here are wonderful. I have so many wonderful people in my life, and there are precious few that I have stumbled upon that are truly kindred spirits. I love that I have many wonderful people that mean the world to me spread out all over New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and quite honestly all over the world. But here, on Cape Cod, I am literally surrounded by kindred spirits. These people not only accept me for who I am, but they join in the geekery wholeheartedly. And today, I spent a perfect day revelling in Autumn goodness and comradery with these people. This, my friends, is known as Forestdale Fall Festival. And I love it. Here are some pictures my friend Lizzie took today of all the fun we had.


Making a Balloon Swan



Rowan instructing me in the art of Balloon Sculpting (it had been years since I have done this.)

Awesome Bounce House and Obstacle Course

Getting ready to race Hilary




She won. Only because my zipper got stuck...


Rowan and Hilary making Balloon animals.

Sammy watching Nathan hula.

Trophy anyone?

Pie Eating Contest


I'm Special... ;)

Monday, October 4, 2010

My string of treasures just keeps getting longer!

The longer I am on Cape Cod, the more I love it here. I have been blessed by God to be a part of a very wonderful church full of loving people who accept and love me for who I am. I have been blessed with a wonderful husband who adores me, even though sometimes I don't deserve it. I have been blessed with two very adorable, intelligent, and loving children. I love my parents and treasure them both for many many different reasons. I love each of my brothers and sisters independently and collectively. And I have the most amazing wonderful women in my "travelling party." So, when my insecurities of not being accepted or my fears of being alone rear their ugly heads, all I need to do is look around to realize that I am not alone and that I am loved for me. And all I need to do to be grateful is to look up and thank God for all his wonderful blessings.
One of the most recent of these blessings was the opportunity to attend the Beth Moore conference in Lowell. I think something like 27 women from our church went, and several women from another local church, not to mention a group from my church in NH. I was overwhelmed as we sat in the Tsongas Arena, rainy and cold outside, and wet and cold inside (we were sitting on the ice), that something like 2,800 women had gathered there from all over the country and Canada.
For those of you who were not there, try to imagine 2,800 women of faith gathered in one room. Try to imagine what 2,800 feminine voices would sound like in unison singing love songs to our God. That is a powerful and beautiful thing. Worship was amazing, spellbinding, and beautiful. What was more amazing was when Beth Moore stepped onto the platform to speak.
I love Beth Moore's Bible studies. She always has such insight. She speaks truths and she has a way of showing a girl how to dig deep within her soul to find truth, healing, and God's love. And I was, sitting in a cold wet arena, listening to her speak live. I had no idea what to expect, but was sure that it would likely bring me to tears.
I was a bit surprised that by the end of the first night I had not shed a tear other than at the beauty of so many women singing praises and worship to God. I loved what she spoke on, but I did not really feel a stirring in my spirit. Not yet.
But I was just so refreshed and happy to be there. My kids were excited about being home with just Daddy for once, which surprised me. Not because they dislike Daddy- they love him- but because they always cling to me. And I was surprised that Seth was excited about the weekend too. He was confident he could handle things like cooking and bathing and dressing the children. He sent me off with a kiss and a "Go learn something!" And here I was, off with my amazing friends, no stress or anxiety over Seth and the kids, and open to learning and discovering new things about God and myself.
I was disappointed at first that I didn't get my roommate request of Hannah, but in the end, I was ecstatic at the opportunity of bonding with two very amazing women, Larissa and Donna. My Roomies were awesome. We had some good laughs and I look forward to spending more time with both of these women.
It was nearly 1 am on Friday that we were finally dozing off, all exhausted from our busy lives and our current adventure to the BMC.
I fell asleep thinking on all of the wonderful things Beth had spoken about, finding our treasures, letting down our defenses, and how our treasures can bring us healing. Beautiful encouraging words.
Apparently I talk in my sleep. I know that some of my siblings talk in their sleep, it use to be a source of great amusement for me. And I had heard that Seth talks in his sleep after he had a particularly disturbing dream of the robot Gideon our school had built several years before. I have never actually witnessed him talking in his sleep, nor he me, although he tells me that I snore very loudly. I believe him too, as sometimes my snores will even wake me up. But, never had there been any record of me talking in my sleep until now.
At breakfast Donna told me that at sometime around 3 am I had called out, "I have my Bible!" I think it is odd because I did not bring my Bible as I had one downloaded to my phone and thought we might need as much space in Cordelia as we could get. (I named my van Anne in salute to my literary counterpart, but the van prefers to be called Cordelia.) At least my mind was on good things when I fell asleep. I could have shouted out something more, uh... well, not about my Bible.
I rode with Donna to the arena that morning because the friends I had driven there all had to be up at the buttcrack of dawn. Yes, this is actually a phrase that frequents my household, and apparently one that had come up on Saturday morning when my friend Lizzie freaked her roomies out at 5 am when everything was entirely dark except the glow from her cell phone reflecting off her chin and apparently creepy grin. They all had a good laugh and someone mentioned that it was the Buttcrack of dawn.
What a powerful morning at the arena. We had decided to sit in the bleachers this time and it was much warmer and dryer out than the previous night. I still had not seen anyone from New Life (my NH church), but that was OK. I knew they were there and having just as much of a wonderful time as we were.
The morning was kicked off by yet another powerful Worship service. I so need to buy this guy's CD so I can listen to it all the time. So powerful. There was even women dancing on the floor below us, and that made me grin. It reminded me of home. These songs were mostly clapping songs too. :) I like me a good clapping song.
Again, Beth stepped onto the platform to share with us the rest of her message about treasuring. She talked about Mary, and how she treasured things in her heart. At one point that morning she went on this long tangent about her father. She shared a lot of feeling and pain and even healing. And every word she said I could relate to. And when she was done talking about him she paused for a moment and said that she didn't know why she told us all that, but that God did and that she hoped it resonated with someone in the crowd. And it did. It resonated with me. Every feeling she had, I knew. Even that part at the end, where she held her father's hand and told him she loved him and forgave him. I know my dad is not dead, but I love him. I know that sometimes things can be stiff or awkward with him, but I love him. I love that he calls me. I love that he emails me. I love that he chose me, raised me, and called him his own. Kind of reminds me of Someone else, actually. I could have so easily dismissed this as a treasure altogether, but I won't. This is one of my favorite treasures that I have on my string of treasures. I have been chosen by my dad and by God. And I can let go of the hurt that came from my biological father. I know that he has passed on, and that I have never actually met him, but I can forgive him and let him go. I have a dad. In fact, I have two dads. And I love that. It's a treasure.
After we got out of Beth Moore, we discovered that there were some people out there that were intent on "fixing" things that really did not need to be fixed. It is sad, really. Here we were at this amazing conference, among amazing women, and hearing amazing things from God, and Satan was trying to use something to derail the whole weekend. I saw people hurt by it, and it makes me sad. I saw a friend cry. I never want to ever see her that hurt again. It was not long before we clung to each other and our treasures and we were back on top again. I will pray for those people that are intent on sewing discourd and hurt. I will pray for strength and peace to those that have to deal with such things directed at them constantly. I will cling to something that Beth Moore said herself: It is not about uniformity, it is about unity.
Unity is what makes us strong. That's another treasure. That's one of those things that can bring healing and further God's kingdom. And even though there are people out there that have nothing better to do than judge others and hurt good wonderful people, we can rise above that.
I was blessed beyond words this weekend. Not only did I get to spend time with some precious friends, I bonded with some new ones. My wagon train has grown in so many ways, my string of treasures has too.
Colossians 2:3 "In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (NLT)

And she treasured these things...

I have been on this earth for 29 years. I remember mostly everything. It's scary really. I remember events, moments, people, places, and all in great detail. (Except for what I had for breakfast yesterday...weird.) For the longest time this has mostly been a curse, as I not only remembered, I held on tightly to a lot of the bad stuff. I don't really know why I do that, and if I ever had a prayer request for myself, it would be to please pray for me to let that crap go. I treasured up so many things, both good and bad, in my heart. I held onto them. Some of them make me smile, and some of them ache so much. And then there was Cape Cod...
Seth and I were stationed here about a year or so after we were married. Rylee was just a few months old. I was scared to move so far away. In retrospect, it is not so far away. But what did I know? So many of my friends stationed here are from California or Alaska. I need to stop complaining... I did not know what to expect.
The first two years we lived here, I was miserable. I was depressed. It was just hard and there was a lot of drama on our street and I was excluded and ridiculed. Home life was not much better.
Seth had his own set of troubles that he didn't quite know how to handle, and I was floundering. Often I would find myself in church without Seth, sitting in the nursery with Rylee, and never seeming to find someone to connect with. I felt so alone. I was plugged into several Bible studies and volunteered in the nursery, but all I ever got was "I'll call you" but no follow through.
I found that as time continued on, I was less and less motivated to go to church. It was just easier not to. No one ever seemed to notice anyway. Enter Hannah.
I must confess here that Hannah and her family moved in next door as a result of my lying. Yea. I totally lied. When I met her husband, he seemed nice and unassuming. I knew they would not be the type of people that would judge me. I thought, here is a chance to have someone on the block that would accept me and maybe even like me for who I was. I needed some people playing on my team for once. So, I lied. Not my proudest moment.
I told him that everyone got along. I told him the neighbor kids were nice. I told him that it was a great street to live on. None of that was true. They moved in. I had friends. And simply because they were fresh meat, they became the targets of the neighborhood bullies, and learned quickly that I had lied. But, because they are awesome sauce, they forgave me, and Hannah and I are best friends. And it did not bode well with her that I was going to church less and less.
It started with tagging along to a Bible Study with her at her church, Forestdale Baptist. I was cautious, but I was happy to have a friend to go with. And I felt accepted instantly. Gradually, I began to go there on Sunday mornings as well, except on the Sundays that Seth would decide to go to church. On those days, we would attend our other church.
I was pregnant with my son at this point, which was such a blessing and miracle. We had lost our baby Andrew approximately a year before, so this pregnancy was a source of great joy and anxiousness for us. For about 8 months we referred to the baby as Aidan Luc. I wanted to do the ethnic thing for this baby like I had done for my daughter Rylee Michelle, but the more I called the baby Aidan, the more I would hear rhyming names: Aidan, Cayden, Hayden, Jaidan, etc. And not all of them were boys. So, after much reflection, Seth and I decided to name this baby Samuel Luke. Partly because Samuel and Luke were my husbands oldest friends, and partly because I felt such a strong relation to the story of Hannah. She had prayed and prayed and wept for a child, and finally God gave her Samuel. Samuel grew up to be a great man of God, and played a major part in Jewish history. What a great namesake. Month 8 and my baby became Samuel.
The day finally came for me to have my boy, and I was mostly attending Forestdale on Sundays instead of the other church. But, both pastors ended up visiting me. That was when I felt like I was cheating on one church with the other. I did not have enough sense to recognize that I was just blessed. After I came home with my new baby, we were overwhelmed with the amount of support we recieved. Meals, cards, and presents all poured in for our family. Even things for the new big sister Rylee. All from both churches: our old church and our new church. People that I had felt didn't know me well enough yet or didn't really care. So blessed.
It had been some months before I had finally convinced Seth to go to the new church with me. I think at that point he really liked the old one, partly because it was so big and he could skip sometimes and no one seemed to notice. (I am eternally grateful that he is not that person anymore.) I don't think he was super impressed with the new place. People noticed if you missed a Sunday. Everyone said Hi. People remembered our names. And then there were those huggers. I love huggers, but I think sometimes they frighten Seth. He is not a hugger. Well, at least he wasn't. (People who know him should give him a great big hug from me next time you see him. It would be fun. I promise!)
I had decided that I wanted to finally dedicate our children to God publicly. Our other church only did dedications on Mother's day, and did not seem to be willing to change that rule for us even though we spent Mother's day in NH with family. So I asked the pastor of our new church. And he was willing, but only if he met with both of us.
It was right after Easter, and we had him over for lunch. I think this took Seth by surprise, because he didn't know of any pastor that would take time to have lunch in a parishoner's home, especially those who are not that committed. And yet, here he was in our home and not the typical pastor.
We talked for a long time about what it meant to dedicate our children, among many other things. By the time the pastor left, Seth had decided that he actually kind of liked this guy.
We moved just a few weeks later. Seth had been stationed on a cutter in NH and my world was turned upside down. Things between us had not been good, and I was suddenly moving away from all my new friends who actually cared about me.
It was not long in the new apartment before things came to a head. I actually told Seth I was done. There was a lot of emotion and hurt involved, but instead of ending things, we went to Marraige counseling. It was tough, because Seth was gone on the cutter more often then he was home. Counseling was sporradic. But we stuck it out.
I went to my home church with my Mom, Dad, and siblings, even though I did not really want to. And Seth joined me when he was home. And things began to change. Things began to change in us individually, and as a couple. We were going through a Rennaissance. It did not make much sense in the beginning, but we were where we needed to be. So much happened in the two years we were back in NH.
Out of all the people that were stationed with Seth on the cutter, a few people made such an impact. Seth, who at the time was not in love with the idea of church, was suddenly befriended by the lay leader and Bible study guys. He developed a friendship with these men, even though they seemed like the most unlikely of people.
I was getting emails from Seth that were suddenly including scripture and beauty. They were becoming less and less practical and informative, and more and more spiritual and loving. A transformation was happening. I saved every single one of those emails. And I fully intend on putting them together in a book someday.
I was growing too. I was learning that it was not the world around me that was messed up, but that I participated. I was messed up too.
I was able to put some past pain behind me and move forward. Attending the church in which I had grown up was part of that, but even bigger than that. I was falling in love with my husband again. That was something I had given up on for a long time, and yet I would still pray for him. And, still, even bigger than that was that my husband was finally taking his place as the spiritual head of our household, a burden which I had been carrying for so very long. And one that I did not carry well, either.
I has a husband again, and he had a wife. My children was getting the happy, healthy, whole family that they deserved. Things were beautiful. All because of prayer and the willingness to change and become better people.
The funny thing about prayer is, God hears us. And he answers us. And if we are faithful and tenacious, good things begin to happen. That was what happened with us. I had been praying for years that my family would be healed, that Seth would find his way back to God, that everything would be ok.
Instead of looking forward to my husband's deployments and dreading his time at home, I had begun to dread the deployments and treasure his time at home. I had a great support system, too, while he was away. And that support system was always ready and willing to welcome Seth when he was home.
Seth became the new Lay Leader on board his ship. He had a co-leader too. Larry was awesome. Those two became such good friends, and an encouragement to one another. It was good, even if there were some people on that ship that wanted nothing more than to hurt Seth and destroy his carreer. He did nothing wrong, they just did not like him simply because he is Christian. And as disheartening as that was, it only challenged Seth to grow more in God. And in turn, me.
Then Seth got baptized. This was huge. He was finally making the public statement of obedience to God and an outward expression of Faith for the world to see. And then people on the ship were getting baptized. And sharing communion. And Satan hated that, and tried everything to destroy it. Funny thing about Satan is, even though he pulls out all the stops to sabotage anything good, he cannot beat God at God's own game.
Finally we got word that we were leaving the ship. It was good news. We had no idea where we were going, but prayed for someplace good. Someplace we would be needed. We made our wishlist. Cape Cod was our first choice. I wanted to go back. Seth was interested in getting involved in that intimate friendly church I had loved so much. But we were told that because he had already served on the Cape, chances were slim we'd go back.
And yet, nothing in my life has ever been expected or typical. We got Cape Cod. Those first several months were a bit rocky, as I believe with all my heart that because God gave us the desires of our heart, Satan wanted to ruin things from the start. Something unfortunate happened that ended in an emergency room trip and quite arguably the worst night of my life, but in the end became such a small insignificant and irrevelent part of our life. It could have ruined everything. It could have destroyed a pretty epic friendship before it had the chance to even begin. It could have derailed our spiritual walk with God. But, the thing is, it didn't. In fact, it only made us stronger, more tenacious, more passionate, and not only did that friendship happen it grew and blossomed into a vibrant beautiful thing, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Growing Pains are Sucky, Wonderful Things

I have this incessant need to be right. OK, so it is not so much a need as a very strong desire. And the long and short of it is that I loath being wrong. Especially when I am being corrected. It ruins my being right streak. But lately, I had been feeling convicted about being selfish. And needy. Which I hate. Because being convicted means that God is pointing out something that is wrong in my life, which means I was not right, thereby ruining my being right streak. I was perfectly content with being selfish. However, because God is the only one who can really be right all the time, I figured I should probably listen to him. Which opened up this whole world of crazy wonderful things, and some growing pains as well.

So, first of all, my perfect world was shattered when two of my casual friends moved away, revealing how big the holes they left behind really were. I struggled with the moves themselves, as I tend to like being the one who leaves, not the one being left behind. That is, in part, a survival mechanism I have developed over the years to protect myself from the pain of being abandoned. (Look at me being all psychoanalytical about stuff. Yay! School works!) This is also, in part, because of Seth's job in the Coast Guard requires us to leave every 3 or so years to go to a new base and start life all over. So, I generally cling to my protective tendencies, again, in an effort to prevent the pain of having to leave friends behind. Yea, I know, I have issues with this... And, apparently, God knows this, so He decided to start working hard on  me... How did he get my attention? Well, like I mentioned before, He started with a conviction.

In response to that conviction of feeling like I had been way to selfish and needy, I decided to answer God with a commitment to stop praying selfishly. First of all, I know God will take care of me. He always has, and always will. If you are curious about that, then feel free to read some of my previous posts. I cover that. So, really, what use is it to pray for things I want, when He has always provided me with not only the things I need, but always the desires of my heart. Even the very fact that I am back on Cape Cod is a true God thing. I figured it was about time to start reading my Bible a lot more, and mostly in search of questions my heart kept on asking. And I figured it was time to talk to God and take time to just spend in His amazing presence telling him how wonderful, glorious, and creative he was. I needed to start telling him "Thank you" instead of "I want." So, I went forward with this commitment. At first I felt refreshed and confident. It was a beautiful feeling. My world was still perfect and happy. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, from God's point of view. Nothing. Well, the trouble is, Satan hates when things are going perfectly for God. And if anyone is selfish and needy, its Satan. *shudder* I have been behaving in a manner like Satan... Now, that puts things in perspective, doesn't it? Anyway, here I was, being a good person and worshipping God and not asking for a single thing for myself. And here was Satan, whispering terrible thoughts in my ear, playing off of my worst fears of being alone and abandoned. Off and On, for a long time, I believed those fears. I repeated truth in an effort to battle those fears. I began to believe I was crazy. And needy. And that my closest friends didn't love me for me, and that I was just a nuisance. I began to fall for these terrible ugly lies. All my insecurities that had sprouted up over the course of my life had grown into full fledged lies, deeply rooted in hurt and bitterness, and they thrived.

It all came to a head earlier this week. I confronted one of my bestest, most favoritest of people, and told her how I was feeling. I spilled it all. I cried, she apologized for stuff she needed to. So did I. She comforted me and reassured me, and we faced those ugly lies head on. All the anger, all the hurt, and all those ugly little insecurities that replayed flashbacks from the abandonments in my childhood, all melted into this big stew pot of crap. And it needed to be incinerated. So, if I had been doing all the right things, then how do I deal with this cauldron of evil that somehow accumulated in my life? Simple. Continue to do those right things. Continue my commitment to praying unselfishly. Continue to be grateful for the wonderful life I have. Continue to feel affirmed that I am a wonderful person because I am simply me. Continue to know the truth that my friends are my friends because they love me for me. Know that I am NEVER alone- even when I might feel like it- God is always there. All those things, those ugly nasty little lies, were- and will continue to be- slaughtered by the truth. Not my truth, God's truth. Because, one of the things I will ever be learning, that I am not always right. And neither is the devil. The one constant, the one truth, is God, and his Love for us. Yes, I am dealing with growing pains right now. And sometimes I am not happy with where life leads and that I don't always get my way. And sometimes I am not happy with God's answers for things, even though his answer is always the right answer. Even if his answer is, "Crystal, you don't always get your way." or "Crystal, you can't always be right. If you were, you'd be me. And you are certainly not me." (Thank goodness, I'm not or there'd  be a heck of a lot of lightning strikes in random places during perfectly clear beautiful weather....) or "Be still. And just know Me." (I hate sitting still and being quiet.) and even "Hilary is following my will for her. I need her where she is. She will always be your sister, even if she doesn't move in."  Dang it. Growing pains are sucky, wonderful things. My favorite thing God has ever said to me, I am constantly reminding myself of it... "Crystal, I love you." Look. I'm growing. :)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

God likes Craigslist

Yes, you read the title correctly. Actually, I am not sure he approves of all the happenings on Craigslist, but I am completely confident that He uses it for good. Seriously.

I've been familiar with the concept for quite awhile now, but have honestly only used it a handful of times. I've heard all the horror stories of the unsavory incidents related to the site, but I have only ever had good luck. And recent events in my life had led me back to the Craigslist world once again.

My Craigslist adventure begins with a search for dressers for my children. My daughter's dresser, while newer, had just about had it. It was made of particle board and cardboard. Of course, to the untrained eye, it looks like wood, but I knew the truth. And over time, the truth became more and more evident. Eventually, the drawers started falling apart. I tried repairing them many times, but it would only get worse. We had come to the conclusion that my daughter needed a new dresser.

My son needed a dresser as well, and had been using the wardrobe we bought for Rylee when she was an infant. It is white and brown and has a mirror on the door. There are pink flowers and fancy knobs.  He was getting to that age where things like that started to matter, not to mention the fact that his clothes never seemed to stay on the shelves. It was time to get him an actual dresser.

While searching the Craigslist classifieds, I had located a dresser for my daughter. The location was near by and it was just what I was looking for. I coaxed my husband to call the girl listed in the ad because I get anxious about such things. While he was dialing, I made the comment that I thought it would be funny if it was the Katie we knew from church. I knew she was getting ready to move. My husband grinned while he was talking to the woman on the other end of the phone. He said that it was the Katie we knew and handed me the phone. We not only found our daughter a reasonable dresser, it was from someone we knew and trust. And she had another dresser for us too. Two birds with one very lucky stone. I suppose that it was more like God has led us to that ad as apposed to luck. And for that, I am very grateful to him.

In an earlier blog post I had mentioned my husband's misfortune with my grandmother's table. To make a long story short, we needed a new one. Unfortunately, we just can't run to the furniture store every time something breaks, so again we hit up Craigslist. For awhile we had wanted to get an entire dining room set, complete with buffet table and china hutch. We just figured it would have to wait. And again, God seemed to lead us right to not only what we needed, but what I had wanted. We made the trip to Yarmouthport and picked up our "new" table, complete with matching buffet table and china hutch. They matched our existing chairs, which made me happy that I can use my grandmother's chairs for that much longer. The set was from the 50s and looks beautiful in my dining room. I couldn't be happier!

Our most recent experience with Craigslist is one of my favorites. For a very long time now, I had wanted to buy a piano. New, pianos can be very expensive. We are talking thousands of dollars. Even the used pianos on Craigslist seemed out of my price range. Every now and then I would check back to see if anyone had posted something new. I had even found a really nice electric substitute that I was contemplating buying off of a friend. I even prayed about a piano. And yesterday, much to my surprise and delight, I discovered a new ad for a free piano. The piano was just a town over and completely free to anyone willing to come and haul it away. A free piano.  Amazing. It just needs to be cleaned up and touched up in a few places, but it is beautiful. We plan on hiring a piano tuner in the near future, and it seems like a small price to pay for such a wonderful blessing. I owe my best friends the McCabes so much for being willing to help us move the piano.

I have so much to be thankful for. God has showered me with blessings. I am just in awe that he takes so much interest in my life to take the time to give me a piano.  It wasn't even a need. It was a want. And He wanted me to have it. Funny how He can use things like Craigslist to give one of his daughter's a present. Thank you, Abba.