Let It Go…Again

Let It Go.

It’s not just an overplayed Disney song (my apologies if you’re singing it now), it should be a way of life.

I am guilty of obsessing over trying to fix things that I may not be able to fix. I spent my morning doing just that.

Ever since my husband’s employment status changed last year, our income took a hit. We were living comfortably until then. Not richly, but comfortably. Taking a vacation was not out of the equation. Paying for the unexpected car repair wasn’t a choice between eating steak or ground round. Fortunately he found work within two months, but at a significant pay cut. And we feel it.

I can easily fall into the trap of juggling numbers and stressing over bills, and trying to pay for the dentist bill, the cable bill, and our children’s college all at once. By the way, my oldest won’t start college for 4 more years, but that won’t stop me from pretending that Rush Week starts on Monday.

I could get two more jobs, reinvent myself, put the kids to work (not really), or I could keep on trucking. I mean, we aren’t poor by any measure. We get by just fine, it’s just that the budget is tight and we have to account for every penny. Mostly that’s because of my own fear. I’m the penny pincher. My husband is much more relaxed about our provisions than I am. But I think that’s the difference in our personalities.

That’s where Elsa’s song comes to mind. But before Elsa knew to sing about letting your fears go, Jesus knew it. In fact, he instructs us to do it. He wants us to come to Him and lay our burdens at His feet. So why does it take me so long to figure it out? Why do I let it go only to pick it right back up again?

I think it happens most often when I’m not walking beside Him. When I’m not seeking Him daily. When I don’t hear His voice in my ear, then I tend to fill it in with my own voice. And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that my voice can NEVER replace God’s. But isn’t that exactly what I’m doing while I’m obsessing and stressing? I just need to trust, to listen, to let go and let God.

I need to work on that. What things in your life do you keep picking up that you really should let go?

I Should Be at Church

It’s a Sunday morning, and I should have gotten everyone up on time (and against their protests) and gone to church. But I didn’t. I chose sleep for the second week in a row, in a long string of sporadic attendance, over worship.

When we lived in California, we never missed a Sunday unless someone was sick. We went to a church of about 350 members. I ran a women’s group on Mondays, my husband helped with Youth Sunday school (both High School and Elementary) and at one point was an Elder. My kids were involved in AWANA and I published the church’s newsletter, not to mention the countless times we volunteered for church events. I don’t tell you all of this to brag, I tell you all of this to show the difference between then and now. To show you I’m not just complaining, that I know things should be better, and that I know they CAN be better.

Fast forward 4 years, and we’re living on the opposite coast, and we should be well established with a new church family. But we’re not, and I know I’m not alone. At least, I don’t think I am.

We’ve been to something like five churches trying to find our fit, our new church family. The churches have varied in size from nearly nonexistent to mega-church all in attempt to find the fit…not God, but the fit. God has been in every one of the churches we’ve been to. But the difference is the people, and not God.

I mean no disrespect to the Church. I love the Church. I believe in the Church. I’m just a little frustrated. The churches we’ve encountered are just different than what we are used to, or it could be a symptom of the times. They are much more corporate, especially the mega churches, which my area seems to have a lot of. I don’t think they mean to be, and I know it’s probably a symptom of trying to serve so many different people. But classes and groups meet generally in 6 week spurts or from September to May, so you never really get a chance to share in one another’s lives. I WANT MORE. I WANT the dirty, nitty-gritty that our lives hold. I WANT to stand shoulder to shoulder with my Christian brother or sister and go through their trials and celebrate their victories. And an hour on Sunday or a few hours during a class won’t get me the intimacy of those friendships that I miss.

The one thread I’ve found running through ALL of the churches, no matter what size, is the feeling of ISOLATION. It doesn’t matter how long we attend a church, we just never seem to connect. And we’ve tried. At the large churches, we never see the same people twice. From the time we walk in the doors and are greeted with a “hello” and a smile to the time we leave with a “goodbye, have a nice day,” sometimes those are the only words that will be spoken to us. Fortunately, my kids have managed to make friends in Sunday school, but those friendships seem to end as we leave the church doors. They seem to be reserved for “while in church only.” No one seems to linger after church is over. Most people race for the parking lot to get on with their Sunday.

As Christians we’re called to be part of the “Body of Christ” but that body has to RELY on one another and LEAN on one another to function. And it seems like a bunch of body parts not communicating, but rather working separately from one another.

I know there are other people within the church walls feeling the same as me. I know it’s up to us to get involved and reach out. But the times that I’ve tried, I’m either too late because a class has already started, or a group is already established. Not to mention that, for me, not being able to drive makes it really hard (if not impossible) to get there sometimes. And the church is just too big to make a friend that would be willing to give a girl a ride now and then.

So if you’re in a large church this Sunday or next, do me a favor and turn around and greet the person seated behind you. It may make the difference in them ever coming back again. And if you’re brave enough, go one step further and invite them to an upcoming church function, AND OFFER TO MEET THEM THERE so they won’t feel so alone. I promise you that you’re effort won’t be wasted. They may think you’re weird, but it’s a chance you should take. You may even make a friend for life.

Have you had similar experiences with church? How did you get past it?

New Year’s Resolution

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I’ve read a lot…and I mean A LOT… of depressing blogs about how awful 2016 was. The theme seems to overwhelm the blogging world.

And I get it: we had a political climate that divided us (and still continues to); we’ve had what seems to be a significant number of celebrity deaths, especially in the last few months; there have been tragedies, unfair accusations, and a whole lot of judging going on.

But I guess that’s what happens when you put your hope in these things. #falsehope

I got sucked in too, on occasion, but it didn’t leave me feeling an overall sense of dread about the year 2016. Trust me, my family and I had our own share of difficulties in 2016.

But enough is enough!

My resolution for 2017 is to stop listening to the whining and the noise that is so distracting…even consuming.

My resolution is to put my hope in something that makes sense…my faith in Jesus.

I know, I don’t get “preachy” on here too often, and that’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m sorry if it offends some of my followers, and I hope you don’t hold it against me.

My faith is the only thing that makes sense to me, that is never changing, that delivers over and over whether I deserve the blessings or not. #grace

My faith is not a magic trick that will make things appear out of nothing. My faith is a relationship, a genuine hope that everything is going to be okay, even if things don’t work out the way I want them to.

It’s the end of 2016 and I’m still not a published author, I’m not the perfect wife or mother, my house is still not clean, my kids still disobey me, I’m not debt free, I still have epilepsy, and world peace is still not achieved. But all that is okay, because I’m right where Jesus wants me to be.

Here’s wishing you a Happy and Safe New Year! I’ll see you in 2017!

Parenting is Hard

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Sometimes “acting like a parent” really sucks.

It began when they were toddlers and I had to deal with tantrums. Experts tell you to “choose your battles.” If only the toddler would listen to the experts.

Turning off the video games when my 8 year old has played way too long doesn’t make me very popular either.

As my kids are getting into their teen years, “Parental Guidance” gets to be a much more grey area.

Punishment and discipline, a lot of times, are based on principles. It’s not an easy fix because it’s not an easy explanation. Don’t touch the stove because it will burn you becomes don’t hang around with those kids because they’re a bad influence.

Navigating the murky waters of the teen years is messy and ugly, and I don’t make a lot of friends.

There’s a lot of “You don’t understand!” and “Why don’t you trust me?!” that I have to listen to.

I want to tell them I know because I’ve been there. But this falls on deaf ears, and sometimes they don’t need to know the gory details of my past anyways.

No matter how much I appeal to their senses, they will stick to their guns. They will go down fighting. In a sense, they’re fighting for their own principles.

As a parent, there is no winning…only loving.

They won’t understand, perhaps not for years that what I’m doing is truly for their own good. I can see around corners and through doors…they can’t, or choose not to.

All I can do is love them through it, and hope that I haven’t screwed up too badly.

It’s in these times that I pray for God’s wisdom and don’t rely on my own.

After all, God’s wisdom is the only Parenting Manual I have.

Living with Regrets

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If you really had your life to live over, what would you change?

We all have those moments when we think, “If only… (fill in the blank here)”

Would you make the same choices? Would you choose a different path? Would you say “yes” when you should have said “no”? Maybe, maybe not. But either way, you’ve probably grown and learned more about yourself and others had you not made those decisions.

Would you do that thing that set off a string of bad luck and bad choices? Would you take it back? What if you found out an even worse consequence would have happened had you not made that first unwise choice? Now would you take it back?

Think about the circumstances of your life. Maybe you’ve had a tough life, maybe you’re in the midst of it right now. But maybe you have to go through it to get to the other side.

I’m not a “Suzy Sunshine” by any means. I’ve had my own struggles, and made some bad choices along the way, some were my own doing, and some were circumstantial.

But I believe we are the sum of our parts…regrets and triumphs. For better or worse, our experiences shape who we are. They make us more compassionate to others going through similar circumstances. When we pay attention, the outcomes usually make us better people…stronger people…more forgiving people.

And if we really pay attention, we can be more loving people too.

I believe our road is meant to be bumpy, with detours and u-turns along the way. It’s not a straight path. That would be boring…mind numbing even. And lonely. It’s about the scenery along the way. And ultimately, it’s about a life well-lived.

But then again, I’m someone who believes smile lines are beautiful, and grey hairs are earned. And I believe that everything is Divinely orchestrated.

So maybe I am a “Suzy Sunshine” after all.

Beyond Our Control

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It’s a hard fact for some of us to admit, but some things really are “beyond our control.”

That’s especially true when referring to people. Whether it’s the neighbor who plays their music loud at 12am in the morning (got one of those myself), or the co-worker that spends most of their time on social media when they should be working, or a friend or family member who is clearly running their life off in a ditch and everyone seems to know it but them, some things are just out of our control.

If you’re like me, it drives you crazy.

As I lay awake last night, listening to the pounding on my wall from the music next door, I was on the edge. Maybe it was the lack of sleep from the time change of daylight savings the day before, or the fact that I had just found that comfy position and was finally falling asleep when I was jolted awake, but I could see a nervous breakdown in my very near future.

In desperation, I began to pray. At first, it was for the destruction of my neighbor’s sound system, but alas, God doesn’t really honor those kinds of prayers. Probably for good reason.

Instead, I fired up the computer, in a feeble attempt to distract myself, and also to search for answers. I’m not sure what I was looking for, but google knows everything, right? So, why not start there.

I came across a message board on how to deal with noisy neighbors, and though there were a lot of suggestions, some more unsavory than others but that made for a good read, I didn’t find what I was looking for. Except maybe some ideas for my next novel. Maybe google doesn’t know everything.

I tried praying again. This time my prayer changed. “God, change my heart. Make me a better person, a more tolerant person.”

The truth is, we can’t change others and their actions. We can’t even control our own actions half the time, what makes us think we can control others. What makes us think we have the right to?

It’s fitting that this prayer is in sync with my word for the year: “Surrender.”

And I’ll keep surrendering, over and over until I finally get it right. It isn’t about the goal as much as it’s about the journey. I think it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

How do you get through when things are beyond your control?

Flawed Church

bible-873315_1920I like my churches flawed, where the people are flawed and not intimidating:

A greeter has forgotten to wipe the donut crumbs from his tie before handing out the morning bulletin.

The Pastor tells lame icebreaker jokes, and laughs at his own expense.

Those times when the worship team sings the wrong line, or displays the verses out of order, or the guitarist is in a different key than the pianist.

When the person doing announcements forgets his notes and decides to “wing-it.”

There’s that one person who sings with all the joy and praises their heart can muster, but is slightly off key, and is the only one who doesn’t know it.

The pen in the pew for taking notes is out of ink…again.

The cover on the hymnal is taped together with duct tape, because it’s been used so often.

The edge of the fabric on the pew is thread bare from all the people that have slid in and out of the pew over the years.

The communion crackers are stale because the last person to help out forgot to close the bag tightly.

Some may find these flaws irritating and unprofessional. But I like to think of my church as a family; a family that makes mistakes, and makes bad jokes, and a family that, above all else, loves one another, with all of their quirks and idiosyncrasies.

It reminds me that we are flawed, each and every one of us, and that we don’t have it all together all the time.

And whether you find your church family at a mega church or at the tiniest planter church in town, we all share these same stories.

Jesus is the perfect one, not the church.