Where Did the Time Go?!

Christmas is only 5 DAYS AWAY! How did that happen?!

Since about October, I feel like I’ve been going non-stop!

To begin with, this (picture at left) prompted a full replacement of our roof. Thank goodness for insurance coverage! Between rain and wind delays, and contractors treating me like a “girl,” I thought it would never get done. But, praise God! The new roof is holding!

Next was NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I spent a good part of my free time (between roofing phone calls) trying to finish 50,000 words in the month of November. I didn’t quite make it (I think I’m somewhere around 38,000), but I did get a good jump on my next novel…women’s fiction with a side of clean romance. It should be out some time in February if all goes as planned.

I also started a side project which I’m having a blast doing. In a past post, I talked about how I wish I would have asked more questions of my Dad before he passed away. It’s a big regret in my life. Also, my dad died from complications with Alzheimer’s, so he didn’t remember a lot. There’s a good chance that either me or my two brothers have that gene, and I want my kids to know the grandparents and great grandparents they never really had a chance to hang out with. So, I started writing down the stories of my childhood with family dinners, and holiday celebrations with extended family. Even the smallest funny stories that have stuck with me over the years suddenly seem important.

I started asking my Mom (she’s 80) about life before kids and life when she was young. I also reached out to my Dad’s brother (who didn’t get Alzheimer’s) after I realized that he had ALL the old pictures of my Dad’s side of the family. He’s been sending me documents and pictures that I’ve never seen before. My brothers have also been a big help. And the Family History Project Told through Stories has taken on a life of its own.

Add to that teenager issues, work issues…you know how it is…LIFE…and suddenly Christmas is next week! Whew! No wonder I’m so exhausted lately! LOL

Needless to say, this family project has really put life into perspective for me. Suddenly, the news doesn’t really make me mad anymore. Except for weather and local happenings, I rarely watch it. I now steer clear of controversy when I can because, well, it’s just not that important anymore.

I hope my followers can forgive me that I haven’t been blogging as much. I’m still writing. I’m still struggling with being a parent and a wife. And I’m still finding my way to church now and then, even if it means watching the live stream from home in my pajamas with a cup of coffee and my husband by my side.

I hope you all enjoy the holidays! Remember what Christmas is all about. Enjoy the craziness of family, and don’t forget the joy that comes from giving.

I hope you’re getting through the holidays without too many hiccups along the way. And don’t forget to talk to your relatives, especially the older generations, and really listen. Those stories are your history.

God bless and Merry Christmas!

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When Your Teen Doesn’t Share Your Beliefs Anymore

 

The following post is a reminder to myself in this season of my life and my teen’s life. But I thought someone else might benefit from it as well. I hope you can find some comfort in the following words if you’re experiencing growing pains of your own.

My child’s “unbelief” was pre-ordained. It’s only a surprise to me, not to God. He knew this was coming, and He knows the outcome.

It’s not my job to “convert” my child. It’s my job to guide and let God do the “converting.”

Forgive myself. It’s nothing I did wrong. Sometimes when your child is coming to their own conclusions, it means they are acting on their own. They are doing exactly what you taught them – to think on their own. They are maturing and thinking about what life means to them.

Don’t take it personally. Sometimes their unbelief is out of rebellion, but more often it’s out of discovery. Sometimes I think it can even be out of sheer laziness – they don’t want to be accountable to God, so they are taking the easy way out. It’s the “because I don’t want to” reasoning.

It’s a growing pain. Both my teen’s and my own. Just like growing out of dolls or playing with legos, they’re maturing and deciding what works for them. For me, it means learning to let go. They’re getting closer to adulthood, and my belief will not always be their belief.

The best thing I can do in this time of their life is to love them. It should be a time of “show” and not “tell.” Lecturing will only push them away. They need to know I love them. They need to know that my love for them doesn’t come with conditions like sharing a belief in God.

Let them experience Grace – mine and God’s. Forgive when they don’t deserve it, be kind to them just because. Really show them God’s love with how I respond to them.

Most importantly, this is God’s battle, not mine. I don’t have the ammunition or the army or the stamina to run the race with them, but God does. He’ll be there when they choose Him. And even if they don’t choose Him, God will love them in spite of themselves.

God tumbled down the walls of Jericho by having men walk around, time and time again He brought people out of despair and raised them up when they didn’t even know He existed. He waited while his followers groaned and walked through the wilderness for 40 years, and He was there every step of the way.

What makes me think He will not do the same for my child?

Take a breath and say a prayer and love your child. There is a time for everything under the sun. And now is a time to wait.

The Pastor is Not the Church

I’ve mentioned in past posts, that we have visited a number of churches in the past five years since we relocated, trying to find the right fit.

One of the reasons we’re still searching, besides the fact that we can’t seem to make any good personal connections, is that several of the churches seem to put a tremendous amount of faith in their Pastor…when it should be in God.

Now, I’m not saying that as church members, we shouldn’t regard our Pastor’s words as true. But what I am saying, is that we’ve found that many churches seem to put too much emphasis in what the Pastor says rather than what scripture says.

Think about it. Have you ever been to a church or a Bible study, or around members of the same church, and you hear quite often, “Well, Pastor So-and-So says that this is true, or that is frowned upon?”

My husband and I keep running into that, and it makes our discerning ears perk up.

The Pastor is NOT the leader of THE church…God is.

What people should be saying is, “Pastor So-and-So said this, NOW LET’S SEE IF SCRIPTURE BACKS IT UP.”

But most of us are too lazy to do the work ourselves. Just like our news and entertainment, we want our religion spoon-fed to us too, and that’s NOT okay.

In fact, it’s downright frightening.

That puts WAY TOO MUCH POWER in the hands of the Pastor. We should hold our Pastor’s accountable, and they should remind us to check it out for ourselves. They have an enormous responsibility to lead their flock, but their flock needs to be held accountable too. If we sit back and let the Pastor do all the work, then we aren’t giving our all to God.

Pastors are only human. They make mistakes. We need to look to the Bible for our answers.

Which leads me to another point: Too many Pastors are teaching out of Christian books and not The Book…the Bible. Too many are relying on other’s commentaries and, as such, their messages are a watered-down version of what Jesus taught.

They have managed to skew the Message to fit the masses to bring people in the doors instead of bringing people in the doors to hear the Message. There’s a big difference, and I hope it changes soon.

The Bible tells us that WE are the church…not the building, not the Pastor, but Jesus’ followers.

Have you run into this before?

Take your kids to church when they are young

This post comes with a disclaimer: It is directed at my fellow Christians, though I suppose it could apply to those of other faiths as well. It is not intended as a criticism or judgement call. It’s just my experience that I’d like to pass along. And if you aren’t a “religious” person, then please don’t feel obligated to read any further on this post.

My kids were raised in church. My husband and I started going to church together before they were even born. I sang with the worship team, the choir at Christmas, my husband was a youth leader and even held a position on the Elder board for a time. My kids heard worship music while they were still in my belly. As soon as they were old enough, they participated in the Christmas musicals, Vacation Bible School, and were members of AWANA. Church was a big part of our life.

When I sang in the worship team, it was my husband’s responsibility to get the kids dressed and ready for church since I had to be there an hour early for sound checks. I can’t tell you the number of times my daughter (when she was still an infant) came to church with her dress on backwards because my husband didn’t realize the buttons went up the back of the dress and not the front. But he did it. And so did I.

And for those of you with little ones, I’m not going to lie to you. It was hard. There were mornings when the little ones didn’t want to get dressed or when getting them into the car seat was an exhausting fight or when we had been up all night with a teething baby. And, sure, we missed sometimes here and there. But, in hindsight, now that they are teens, getting them to church back then was so much easier than it is now that they’re older.

When they were little, their belief was our belief. Their religion was our religion. They went with us, partly because they had fun, and church was a time of crafts and play with their friends, but mostly because they didn’t have a choice. They went where we went. They weren’t old enough to stay at home alone.

Now that they are teens, getting to church on a regular basis is much harder.

Now that they’re older, church isn’t all fun and games. Their friends show up sporadically, so there are days when there may be absolutely no one they know in their Sunday school class. Let’s be honest: they would much rather be home on the computer or sleeping in, than having to get up early and shower and get cleaned up just to go and sit and listen to a message that they may feel does or does not apply to them. It can be really boring at times.

Add to that their friends, who may not be believers, and their influence on them. At this age, they need to own their faith. We can model for them as much as we want, but it’s up to them to choose their faith. Sure, you can make them go to church, telling them that it’s for their own good, and believe me, there are days that we do that. But doing that can turn into a fight, and who knows if anything is getting through to them?

So, my advice to you if you have littles and you’re a church-goer, it’s worth the fight to get there. It’s worth showing up to church with your toddler’s clothes on backwards, or with your hair pulled back in a messy ponytail, or with baby food smeared across your dress. Your fellow moms will understand.

Plant as many seeds as you can when they’re young, and hopefully, as they get older, even if they wander in the wilderness for a while, those seeds will have taken root and will always pull at them as they make their own choices in life (even the bad choices).

Parenting is hard, whether your kids are younger or older. Your going to need a lot of love and a lot of patience. Get started early.

That’s just my two cents.

Chasing Christianity

My fellow blogger over at Insanity Bites inspired this post. She is one of the most thoughtful Christian bloggers I know. You should check her out when you get a chance.

IB recently wrote about being a “Martha” and working hard for our Christianity and how Jesus’ didn’t want Martha to work hard but pointed out that her sister, Mary, was doing the right thing by sitting at Jesus’ feet, not being distracted by the “chores” of the world (I’m paraphrasing).

I find more and more that the distractions and the “chores” of the world are what keeps me from Jesus. I’m not putting the blame on the chores, mind you, but I am simply pointing out that with information coming in at a thousand thoughts per second, it’s enough to keep any brain, especially my simple one, from keeping my eyes on Jesus. I’m so busy “accomplishing things” that I forget why I’m here in the first place. It feels some days like I’m “chasing Christianity.”

Believe me, I don’t profess to be a Biblical scholar, or a pastor or teacher. I don’t profess to have all the answers, or even some of them. And I certainly don’t pretend to be a “perfect Christian.” There’s only One of those, and I assure you it isn’t me. But I know I am forgiven, and I know where I stand with God.

There are countless Christian books about pursuing holiness, stopping anxiety, practicing Godliness, etc. All of which declare the rules for a “happy Christian life,” for “chasing” the Christian dream.

Don’t’ get me wrong, there is nothing bad about pursuing a better way to live your life and if that involves Jesus then more power to you. But I think we can get caught up in the “doing” instead of the just “being.”

God loves all humans whether or not they love Him back. He’s kind of funny that way. He’s got more love in His pinky toe, than I have in my entire body. If I challenge that belief about myself, I will fail every single time.

And that’s where grace comes in, and Mary’s example.

Once you’re forgiven, you’re forgiven…it’s signed, sealed and delivered. I am grateful for grace, because without it, I’d really be in trouble. Remember how I said I’d fail every time? Well, I do…daily, hourly even.

You know those signs you see on the walls of factories that say “_____ Days Without an Accident?” Well, I think as Christians we should have a sign on our wall at home that should say “_____ Days Without a Sin.” It would be a good reminder that we can’t go without sinning, but also that Jesus’ grace covers over those sins.

Grace is a gigantic part of the Christian faith, and of my Christian walk. I don’t always say the right things, I don’t pray out loud very well, and I don’t speak “Christian-ese.” I don’t bubble over with Jesus’ love for others like I should. Injustice makes me mad, rude people frustrate me, I get discouraged when my kids won’t listen to me, and I get upset with myself when I don’t always have the right response to a situation. And that’s my fault.

But I do have grace to rest in. I do have a heart for God and a desire to do better. And I do want to rest at Jesus feet more than clean the house for Him. That I can guarantee.

“Chasing Christianity” is exhausting, and often leaves me breathless and tired. “Chasing Jesus,” however, gives me rest, and puts my heart at ease. Maybe it’s time to stop chasing and let Jesus catch me instead.

Have a Happy Easter! He is Risen indeed!

Forever a Church “Visitor”

 

I’ve forgotten how to “do church.”

It wasn’t something I intentionally set out to do. On the contrary, I love church, I love fellowship, I love God and all He stands for. My family and I were part of a “church family” for 15 years. We stayed after on Sundays and helped clean up, we filled in where needed, we washed dishes at the annual church-wide Thanksgiving Dinner, we helped with the youth, we served time in the nursery (some of you will relate to my wording there), I sang in the choir, I sang on the worship team, I led a women’s Bible study, whatever we were asked…we did. Because that’s how a church body works.

And then we moved 2000 miles away from our church family, and had to start over. That was 5 years ago, and I still feel like a “visitor” in what we call our “home church.”

We have been to 5 churches, and it’s downright embarrassing when someone asks us “where we’re going to church now?” But we can’t find our “fit.”

I’m not looking for perfection, I’m not working on an emotional response. I’m not trying to replace my “first love” of our last church, because I know it had flaws too. But I’ve never before experienced a point where I just didn’t feel compelled to go to church. And my kids feel it too. Of course, they’re older now, being pre-teen and teen aged, and having to get up on the weekend and get ready for church doesn’t exactly elicit cheers from them. But it’s more than that.

There is no connection. No real, connection.

They don’t even know the names of most of the kids they go to Sunday school with, and they NEVER mention them…ever!

The churches where we live tend to be much bigger than we’re used to, bordering on mega-church status. And I have to admit that, though large churches have their advantages of a vast number of “activities,” I find that people get lost in all that “busyness.” It’s easy to fall through the cracks, even if you do try to get plugged in, it takes so much longer to make any real connections than in their smaller counterparts.

I’m really at a loss as to what to do. We can’t keep searching. My daughter caught me checking out a smaller church, closer to our home, and she flipped. Not because she has made so many good friends at our current church (she can’t even name one of them) and she would hate to leave them, but because she’s just tired of switching, as are my husband and me. It isn’t fair to them, or to us.

I’ll admit that the big churches are intimidating to me, and I’m a rather social person. But getting plugged in to the right connections seems nearly impossible.

I want to lean on one another, and experience each other’s lives. Not just the cleaned-up version that people present on Sunday, but the dirty version you are on Monday and Tuesday and the rest of the week.

I can’t figure out if it’s a symptom of the area we live in, or if it’s a symptom of the age were living in.

We’ve prayed about this, believe me we have. And we’ve had no clear answers.

So, I wonder what church we will “visit” tomorrow? Should we go to our “usual church” and blend into the background, smile politely and shake hands, knowing that those relationships will probably never go any further than that? Or should we let the kids sleep in, and just my husband and I go to the “new” church up the street?

If anyone has any useful suggestions as to how they changed churches successfully, I’d love to hear them. Because I’d like to get rid of my “visitor” name tag one of these days.

The End of the World?

If you haven’t already heard, the world may come to an end this coming weekend. If it does, I guess this may be my last post.

I’m not one to buy into prophesies and panics. I mean, remember the scare of New Year’s Eve 1999? Yeah, well, we all saw how that turned out. No computers crashed, or nuclear sites went rogue. We just partied like it was 1999, thanks to Prince.

Now there are plenty of religious teachers proclaiming this to be “the End,” and who am I to contradict them? I am not a Bible scholar by any means. I just finished reading a very well thought out argument for the planets aligning, and the world ending by a well-read Bible teacher. And it was convincing. But I do know that these teachers are “men” and not God, and only God knows the time and place.

But here’s my main point: I wouldn’t blame Him one bit if He did decide that this weekend is going to be the time and place.

I mean, look at what we’ve done to His plan.

From the beginning, we’ve done nothing but deny Him over and over. He’s got to be getting awfully tired of it.

And I’ve never been witness to so much hate within the human race in all my 48 years on this earth. It’s downright embarrassing what we’ve become. Brother against brother, sister against sister, parent against child.

We’ve made ourselves judge and jury, usually over things we know nothing about. The loudest voices are the ones that get heard the most, whether they are speaking Truth or not.

If the trumpets don’t blare, and the sun doesn’t turn dark this weekend, then maybe we should look at it as a second, third, fourth, or billionth, chance to start over, and thank God for this life that we have.

Maybe we should take this weekend to be introspective. And for those who are believers, then it’s time to look Up. Find out what God wants us to be doing with this life.

Spread some love where there is hate. Share some mercy where there is judgement. Speak the Truth where there are lies. Show some kindness when it isn’t deserved.

God bless, and best wishes. That’s just my two cents.