Monday, March 29, 2010

O My Soul

"O my soul, bless God. From head to toe,
I'll bless his holy name!
O my soul, bless God,
don't forget a single blessing!
He forgives your sins—every one.
He heals your diseases—every one.
He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
He renews your youth—you're always young in his presence. "
Psalm 103:1-5

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hello From My Backyard!

If you didn't already know, life with me is an adventure. Case is point, I'm locked out of my house in the backyard!! Earlier I thought, wow, what a pretty day, why don't I answer some emails and play my Facebook Scrabble turns outside. I obviously unlocked the doors to come outside. I was happy. Listening to music and playing on the computer, when I realized I was kinda cold. I came out here fresh from a shower, so my hair's wet and I have no shoes on. I said to myself, "Self, why don't you go in and get a jacket". I put the computer down and went to open the door and ran right into it! I jiggled the handle and realized the handle was locked!! "OH, NO!", I said. I jiggled it some more as if that would cause it to magically open. Nothing occurred. My cell phone is charging inside so the only contact I have with the outside world is friends with iPhones who get emails on their phone.

I quickly put out an SOS on Facebook and through email. Not knowing what else to do, I sat back and started to pray... and cry. I cry when I get really stressed out. So as tears are streaming down my face, I'm starting to envision what will happen if I can't get in touch with anyone. I'll be out here all night and freeze; which only made me cry harder. So I had to redirect my thinking into something more positive.

I thought, "How hard could it be to climb the fence (in my bare feet)?" I drag a chair over to the side and size up the situation. It wasn't going to be easy. I would get hurt, but I would be "free". But then I would be without a computer and hurt, probably bleeding without contact with anyone again. So I delayed that idea for a time. I sat back down and was trying really hard not to freak out. That's when I heard my neighbors voice from two houses down! Yes! Someones home! I dragged my chair over and yelled until he heard me. He came out of the house with a bewildered look and looked my direction. He was quite surprised to see me above my fence!

"I'm locked out of my house, will you please call my mom?" He said, "Why don't I bring you the phone and you can call her yourself?"

He lowered the phone and I immediately called my mom at home. Oh no, no answer! Hands shaking, I called her cell. When she picked up, I said, "Mom, where are you?" "Pulling out of the driveway. Amy called and said you were locked out of your house. I'm on my way." Was that the hallelujah chorus I hear??

My neighbor said, "Do you need anything?" "No, I don't think so. Thank you SO much!" But what I was thinking, a bathroom would be excellent. Mom lives 40ish minutes away... wonder if I can hold it? Hmm.

This is the second time THIS WEEK I've had a key emergency. And the 2nd time my Mom was able to rescue me! I have the greatest Mom EVER! No matter the situation, she's always been there for me. Thanks Mom!!

I think once I'm freed, I will go get copies of my key made. That is, after I go to the bathroom.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Census 2010

Let's talk about the Census for a minute, shall we? Unless you've just been living in a hole and haven't heard, the Government is polling America to basically find out: how many are living at your house, age, race, and sex.

Maybe I'm the only one in America, but I LOVE filling out questionnaires, so I couldn't wait for mine to show up! The fateful day came and I thought, "Hmm, this isn't very thick." Come to find out, it's a letter telling me all about the Census (as if I don't own a TV and haven't seen all the commercials) and alerting me to the fact it will be here soon. Um, complete waste of money! I was so frustrated, I immediately threw it away.

When the actual Census came, I immediately sat down and filled it out! (I know, I'm a goober!) I was disappointed there wasn't more to it. "That's all?!", I said to myself. I kept flipping pages to see if I'd missed something. No, there were like 4 pages to add more people to your household, but nothing more to answer. Unless you're from "19 Kids and Counting", how could you possibly fill in all those blanks??

I did my duty and mailed it the next day, especially since my "response to the U.S. Census Bureau is required by law".

"Check out these numbers: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it will cost just over 14 billion dollars to complete this year's census. That's about 45 dollars per person in the United States." (Quote taken from Fact Finder)

So today I pick up my mail and there's a postcard, reminding me to fill it out and send it back because my "response to the U.S. Census Bureau is required by law". Seriously? Can we say wasting money? Surely there's a way to do this online (FREE!)? Just think how much money that would save? Even if people can't get online, they can always go down to their local library and use their computer. It just seems extremely wasteful in my opinion. I know the Government enjoys spending money they don't have but it's getting ridiculous!!

OK, I'm done. *hops off her soap box*

Monday, March 22, 2010

Oh Where Are My Keys?!?

I had an interesting morning.

As I picked up my purse to walk out the door, I reached for my keys on their hooks and my hand grasped air. I took a double-look and said, "Ohmygosh, where are my keys??" I immediately and frantically started searching all the places I thought they might be... in my purse, in the back gate lock, mixed in the bags from Walmart, upstairs in my bedroom, even in the fridge! (I learned that trick from my friend Tommy. If you ever don't want to forget something in the fridge, put your keys on top of it.)

I thought, well maybe I accidentally locked them in the car. I looked in all the windows the best I could, but didn't see anything. I came back in and just stood in my kitchen wondering where to look next. Not knowing what else to do, I began to pray. I also texted (is that a word?) some friends to have them pray as well. (Thanks: KP, CP, and JP) I also called my Boss who took the news surprisingly well and my Mom to see if she had a spare house/car key.

My Mom volunteered to drive 40 minutes out of her way to come help me search for them. While she was making her way here, I started to clean and straighten up my house. It wasn't exactly dirty to speak of, but it definitely wasn't in order. Ironically, last night I said to myself, "Self, you need to take some time to tidy up a bit." Little did I know, a mere 10 hours later I'd be doing that very thing.

It's my belief that God set in motion certain events, starting with the neighbor kids who distracted me when I got home from Walmart last night; asking me a million questions, including but not limited to, "Why are you never home?". Actually, for some strange reason, I put my groceries in my back seat; something I never do. And, I always hang my keys on their hook as soon as I walk in the door, but I had to race upstairs to turn my alarm off. All these abnormalities led to my lost keys. However, I think God just wanted me to clean my house!!

Seriously! He has a sense of humor and has always used real world applications to teach me lessons. Oh, I should mention, yesterday's sermon was on worry. :) I calmly sat down in my chair closed my eyes and said, "Lord, I'm not worried. I'm just a little stressed out that I'm late for work. You know where my keys are, would you please let me know too?" I sat in silence for a while and didn't hear anything. I methodically started organizing/straightening/cleaning each room with the intent to find my keys. Alas, they were no where to be found.

I went back out to the car and checked in all the windows again. Nothing.

So, I started cleaning the kitchen, all the while just talking to God about what's going on in my life right now. Asking for wisdom for this and that. Thanking Him for all His many blessings in my life. I made the conscious effort to surrender my stress over to Him, as it wouldn't help my anyway. Yesterday, my Pastor said there are 7,000 different promises of God where He takes care of us. I knew He knew where my keys were and eventually they'd show up.

About that time, my Mom arrived. The first place she checked was my car. I didn't see her get in, only that she had arrived and was in the back seat of my car. She got out and held my keys above her head like she'd scored the winning touchdown (not that I know anything about football)! I pumped my fists above my head and said, "Praise the Lord!"

Come to find out, my keys were in the backseat of my UNLOCKED car!! It didn't even occur to me to check to see if my car was locked when I looked through the windows like five times! I'm such a dolt! Yay Mom for finding the missing keys!!

The moral of this little adventure is two fold. One, don't worry. It doesn't help anything. God's in control and regardless of the outcome, He knows what's best. Two, never ever ever shut your car door without your keys in hand!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fall on Jesus

Tonight, while cooling down after a great cardio workout, I was listening to my "Godtunes" mix and "Untitled Hymn (Come To Jesus)" by Chris Rice permeated my ears. I've heard this song countless times before but this time something clicked. It was like an "ah ha" moment:

"And like a newborn baby
Don't be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk
Sometimes we
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live! "

Isn't it funny that we assume we don't need to learn how to "walk" just because we're adults. How pompous am I to think I have it all figured out. Quite the opposite is true really. Maybe I don't want to appear weak. Maybe I get tired of asking for help and not getting a reply. Maybe I depend too much on humans, rather than turning to the Father. Whatever the reason, I need to "remember to crawl".

I'm not sure why I think I can always hit the ground running (in life). It happens every time. My stubborn-strong-willed self will get an idea in my head and leap! *SPLAT!* Once I pick myself up, I can't figure out why I fell. Without learning anything, something else will come along and again, I "gird my loins" and take off. *SPLAT!* You'd think after a few "*SPLATS!*" I'd learn my lesson, but no. I suppose it's a good thing that I leap in faith; trusting my instincts and all. But perhaps I need to learn a few things first.

"Don't overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn't late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn't want anyone lost. He's giving everyone space and time to change." 2 Peter 3:8-9

Wow, read that verse again. Go on. I'll wait... "God isn't late with His promises" is a phrase you can take to the bank (as my mom would say)!

I'm a pretty patient to a point, then all bets are off. I get frustrated and far too caught up in comparing my life to others. When I was younger I fully believed I'd already be married with a gaggle of kiddos, however that hasn't happened yet. I don't know why. Who am I to question God? Do you remember what happened when Job questioned God? Here's a tiny exert:

"Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?"

It makes me smile that God's sarcastic in 38:5. God's "conversation" with Job goes on and on through chapter 41. Go read it for yourself starting in chapter 38.

Tiny, but semi-relevant rabbit trail. Back to my original point. Don't be afraid to fall. You know you're going to. You might as well wake up and put on knee pads. It's inevitable. But when you go *SPLAT!* remember to fall on Him. I often wonder if He doesn't allow certain circumstances to occur so that we'll learn to depend on Him.

One of my favorite things as an Aunt is when my nephew's face lights up when he sees me and takes off running into my arms for a big hug (usually knocking me over)! How much more does God want that too? I'm sure He gets so excited when we come to Him with good or bad news, as long as we come. In the coming hours and days, let's practice depending on His strength rather than our own.

One more promise for the road: "I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. "When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen. "When you come looking for me, you'll find me. "Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed." Jeremiah 29:11-13

Happy trails, Friends!

Monday, March 8, 2010

The LORD's Wonderful Love

I'll mess this post up if I say anything. I was researching a topic when I stumbled upon these verses and was overwhelmed by Jesus's love for me (and you)! Be blessed, friends:

1With all my heart

I praise the LORD,

and with all that I am

I praise his holy name!

2With all my heart

I praise the LORD!

I will never forget

how kind he has been.

3The LORD forgives our sins,

heals us when we are sick,

4and protects us from death.

His kindness and love

are a crown on our heads.

5Each day that we live, he provides for our needs

and gives us the strength

of a young eagle.

6For all who are mistreated,

the LORD brings justice.

7He taught his Law to Moses

and showed all Israel

what he could do.

8The LORD is merciful!

He is kind and patient,

and his love never fails.

9The LORD won't always be angry

and point out our sins;

10he doesn't punish us

as our sins deserve.

11How great is God's love for all

who worship him?

Greater than the distance

between heaven and earth!

12How far has the LORD taken

our sins from us?

Farther than the distance

from east to west!

13Just as parents are kind

to their children,

the LORD is kind

to all who worship him,

14because he knows

we are made of dust.

15We humans are like grass

or wild flowers

that quickly bloom.

16But a scorching wind blows,

and they quickly wither

to be forever forgotten.

17The LORD is always kind

to those who worship him,

and he keeps his promises

to their descendants

18who faithfully obey him.

19God has set up his kingdom

in heaven,

and he rules

the whole creation.

20All of you mighty angels,

who obey God's commands,

come and praise your LORD!

21All of you thousands

who serve and obey God,

come and praise your LORD!

22All of God's creation

and all that he rules,

come and praise your LORD!

With all my heart

I praise the LORD!

Psalm 103 (Contemporary English Version)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Pickle Jar

"So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it." Colossians 3:12-13 (The Message)

I don't know about you but picking out my clothes for the next day has always been a source of contention for me. First of all, I'm not your average girl; therefore, I don't have a ton of clothes. Pickin's are slim so I don't have much with which to work. At my old job, it was "business casual", which essentially meant dress pants and a nice top. Ugh! Secondly, that's my least favorite category to wear so I was never a happy camper. I remember one week I went on "strike" and wore the same thing to work every single day: khakis and a polo. I'm not sure anyone noticed and if they did, nothing was said.

In contrast, my not-so-new-job (where I've been for nearly a year), there is no dress code! Zero. Zilch. Nada. Imagine that! I literally can wear whatever I want; except maybe a bathing suit, but that's just not practical. I'm a million times more productive when comfortable rather than dealing with something fussy. The thing is, even given complete freedom, I still find myself standing in my closest, starring at my clothes, hoping something new will show up in my wardrobe. Surely the Lucy from Narnia brought something back from me while I was sleeping, but so such luck

Regardless of what I physically wear, I still have to "gird my loins"; prepare for the day ahead mentally and spiritually. Mentally usually takes care of itself by getting a good night's rest, drinking caffeine and eating something for breakfast. Oh yeah, and music. I must have rockin' music in the morning. But, I have to be honest, I don't do a very good job getting myself ready spiritually. Oh sure, I talk to Jesus all throughout the day here and there, but I don't pray over my day like I should.

My priorities are all out of wack. My Pastor gave the best example to illustrate this point and I hope I can recreate the scenario. Imagine an empty pickle jar. The goal is to fit everything in: rocks, pebbles, sand and water. First, start with the rocks (about 1"-2" in diameter); it appears already full but see what happens next! Second, the pebbles fill in the holes where the rocks left. Third, the sand fills up every nook and cranny, but there's still room for more. Finally, the water is mostly soaked up by the sand. In fact, more water fills the jar than you thought possible. Now, as you look at this imaginary jar filled with all these 'ingredients', let's translate that to a tangible real-world application and associate each 'ingredient' with something as well:

Water = God.
Sand = Family
Pebbles = Work
Rocks = Media (Facebook, TV, Movies, Video Games, etc.)

Given our first scenario, Media (Rocks) are taking up a huge part of our lives. I know this is true in my life. Once I'm finally home from work or working out at the Y, all I want to do is sit down and veg for a bit. Turn on a movie or watch TV, while often simultaneously playing on the computer (Facebook, emails, etc.) The next thing I know, it's bedtime and I haven't accomplished anything meaningful.

Sand (Family) is a big part of my life already, but how much of the time spent with them in quality time? Are we talking about life? Are we investing in an other's lives? I went to lunch with my Dad last week and learned things I never knew about my Dad! What else don't I know?? One of my favorite things to do with my family is play games, but we usually only do that at the beach. Is one week really enough to last the whole year?

Pebbles (Work) has honestly never been an issue for me. When I walk out of the door, I leave everything there, then pick it back up again when I come back. I have to compartmentalize or I might go insane. With my current job, I do have a lot more responsibility so I do tend to think about it a bit more than I should, but not obsessively or anything.

Water (God) can be the most difficult for me. I know people think I'm this great Christian and a prayer warrior, but honestly I don't deserve the credit you're giving me. Yes, I spend time with Him, but not like I should. I don't hunger for His Word like I should. I don't even read the Word necessarily. My best time spent with Him is when I'm writing and listening to music in the car. That's when I hear Him the most.

But anyway, back to my analogy. OK, mentally dump out all the ingredients again, except, maybe pour the water out first or you're going to make a mental mess! What would happen if you reversed the order? Would everything still fit in the pickle jar? Let's give it a try!

Use the same amount of water (God), but pour all of it in first. How about that, it's already 3/4 full! Add the sand (Family) next and watch what happens. The water (God) allows the sand (Family) to be quite solid with not much room for anything else, but let's add the Pebbles (Work) to the mix anyway. Look, they sink a little bit into the water (God) and sand (Family) mixture, but mostly sit on the surface. Lastly, see how many rocks (Media) you're able to fit in now; not too many huh? In fact, if you try to cram them in, the water (God) and sand (Family) spills over the edge. Surely you see where I'm going with this by now?

The benefits of having and keeping priorities in check can make all the difference in your life. If things seem out of wack, maybe it's because they are. You're like a washing machine, stuffed with too many clothes. You're off balance and not centered in Him. I know this to be true in my own life. Sure, things look OK on the surface, but there's still that discontentment I referred to yesterday. Perhaps it's just God's way of saying, "Hey goofus, why don't you spend some quality time with me and then see how you feel!" Unfortunately I sometimes need a konk on the head with a 2x4' to put things into perspective. Or perhaps a silly, yet memorable analogy of a pickle jar. I bet you'll never look at pickles the same way again; I know I won't.

Happy trails, friends.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Secret Decoder Ring

"Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
Psalm 73:25-26 (English Standard Version)

Early today, I was listening to "You're All I Want" by Lifehouse and I had a "moment". I was instantly transformed back to that day in the van. You see, this song and I have a history. I remember the first time I heard it. I was on the first leg of what was to be a four-day journey across the country to Seattle, Washington. 10-hour plus days in the van gives this analytical girl way too much time to think and journal. We were hardly on the road when this song came on my CD player (predating my iPod). The song was apparently new at the time, as I'd never really listened to the words and were blown away by them. (FYI: I have to memorize the words to a song before I can really enjoy listening to it.) My eyes began to fill with tears. It was as if God was sending me off with a little love letter from Him.

God speaks to me all the time, but especially through music. When it comes to learning life lessons, music is like my secret decoder ring. It helps makes sense of the senseless. Often, words in a song will strike me to the core like nothing else. Back then I was standing at a precipice and had some decisions to make. I had to maneuver my way across an "Indian Jones" style bridge which took me from childhood to adulthood. But this trip was my one last hurrah of being a kid.

I learned a lot on that trip but most importantly I discovered what it meant to live life in utter and complete abandon, chasing whole-hearted after Him. I fell in love with Him all over again. Isn't it a shame it takes a road trip of isolation away from the media of everyday to bring life back into focus? Why is it to hard to keep Him at the center? I don't know about you, but my life is BUSY! From the moment I finally wake up, I hit the ground running. The next thing I know it's nearly bedtime. Whew! Where did the day go?

In my life, I feel like I'm on another precipice. But this time, I'm in the vortex of a whirlwind. Sometimes it feels like life is spinning out of control, in that, *blink* it's ten years later and what do I have to show for myself? Mostly, I suppose there's a feeling of discontent; like I should have done more. I want to have done something that matters. I want to have made a difference. I don't merely want to exist. I want to thrive!

I'm sure you've seen this skit on YouTube before, but it NEVER ceases to bring me to tears. I think it brings this post to a close: