Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What's the Distraction?

I got a call from my friend from MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) this morning asking if I had anything written I could email over for our newsletter here I sit.  Thankful to get a loving kick to begin blogging again after the birth of our precious new baby boy, Jude. 
Miss y'all so!

Have you seen the show 19 Kids and Counting?  My oh my, if you live on Mars or don't have cable, it's a show circled around the Duggar family (from Arkansas, of course, my home front!) who has 19, yes, 19 children in the family.  Matriarch Michelle Duggar manages her home and her children with such grace and organization- and always seems to somehow have a smile on her face.  She is simply beautiful, y'all.

I think I caught a glimpse into how she stays not only sane, but joyful, from a sidebar comment she made one episode.  She and her husband were sitting at the table together pouring over the second book they were in the middle of writing (ah hum, yes, the 2nd book, plus 19 kids), and as one of her toddlers crawled up to give mommy a hug, she looked at the camera and said something to the effect of:

This book is such a distraction from my children, and not the other way around....

Wow.  It really made me tap my temple and think.  What are the real distractions Lord!? 

Seriously, how often do we get frustrated when our precious kids "get in the way" of getting laundry done?  How often do we get ruffled when a call from a friend in need comes in the middle our grocery store trip?  (Let's be honest) What about when a co-worker or neighbor leaves us with subtle cues that he or she could use a little Jesus- and we turn the other way because we are "too busy" to engage?

Check out what Jesus says in Matthew 25: 35-40, seriously, wow.

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 
 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Oh my.  Do you get this?!

When we give our babies something to drink, when we bring a meal to a friend, when we invite a new friend over for supper...we literally do for our Jesus who has done everything for us.

Laundry, ministry, paperwork, groceries, car repair...yada and so on... are important, yes, don't I know it, as each calls, neigh, screams my name daily.  But it's really all about people, people.

Don't think it will hurt my dirty car's feelings if it has to wait an hour to be vacuumed, while I make googly eyes with my baby boy.  Or if the magically growing pile of whites gets an eye roll for not folding itself as I color with my daughter.  Pretty sure my groceries will still make it in the cart if I pause for a moment to say "excuse me" with a smile rather than practically plow down the lady in front of me.  You get the idea.

One way I think Mrs. Duggar is able to manage so well: she seems clear about what's a distraction and what's not.  Lord would you be so gracious to show us what is distracting us today?

And now I must go, as this is beginning to distract me from watching Curious George and cuddling with my kids...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Questions We Live By

It has been weighing on me to write this to you...

While you and I may not "say it out loud" or even realize it, it seems we live, respond, and relate out of certain self-defining questions...questions like:
Who am I?  Who does the world say I am?  Who do other people say I am?  What does this circumstance say I'm worth?

Aren't these natural ways to define ourselves, friends?  Ummm...Guilty.  Man, I wish we could discuss this together over good coffee, but blog it is.  One of the ways we fall quickest into the tempting trap of complaining, discontent and discouragement is to define ourselves by the above questions, instead of THE only question that really matters:

Who does God say I am?

This is the game changer, this is the truth- the radical, honest-to-goodness truth.  Here is something we can actually live by, define ourselves by...come what crazy may around the corner.  What God says and Who God is will never change, as circumstances and people often do.

We must be in His Word, friends (ah hem, self included!) must be come louder than all the other voices a talkin' at us.  We must finely and acutly tune our ears to His voice, bend our minds to His truth for ourselves if we wish to stay on this Jesus walk, allowing ourselves to be transformed by the renewing of our minds through the washing of the Word. 

Getting in God's word, letting it change us, is like a refreshing, heavenly bath for the brain.   I don't know about you, but I know can use one at least one-a-day to keep away the stinkin' thinkin'.

Anyhow, as I began to write a list of "Who Am I's?" I stopped short...wanting to start with a few as examples and allow you to add your own.  Lord show us how to use Your Word to stand up against day to day feelings and situations for ourselves! 

How are you today?  Are you feeling at a dead end?  Exausted?  Feeling alone?  Here are just 3 examples of just Who God says we are...oh the game changes here...thank you Jesus!

Who Am I Anyway?

I am not at a person who as reached a dead end.  According to Isaiah 43:19, God is making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

I am a person who can rest under any circumstance.  According to Hebrews 4: 10, there is a Sabbath-rest for the people of God, for anyone who enters God's rest, rests from his own work, just as God did from His. 

I am not left stranded.  In fact, I have help in every circumstance.  According to Hebrews 4:16, we can approach God's very throne of grace with confidence, so that we may recieve mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need!!

 Got anymore to share??? Love y'all!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Who's getting the glory from your story?

Luke 6:28 "bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."

One day last week I got the mommy thrill to actually snag the front and center "for expectant mothers" parking spot.  As I hopped out of the car a little lighter and walked to the other side to let Scotch, our dog, out to take him inside the Pet Shop for a much needed haircut, I accidentally bumped the car beside me with my door.  Yikes.

I saw the owner was sitting in the car, so I leaned forward to motion and say.."I am so sorry about that!" and as I did, she lept out of her SUV with some serious 'attack'.  I won't go into the details, but to say I was cursed at repeatedly, the care of my personal car was insulted, asked if I was even pregnant (being that I was in the much coveted spot) (yes, I am, 30 weeks!)...all in front of my precious 2-year-old, while I continually apologized and must have looked stunned.

I walked Scotch inside for his haircut and could not hold back the tears, y'all.  Has this ever happened to you?  Maybe not, but those of you who have ever recieved a unwarranted verbal bashing, read on.

True, I opened my door in a way that made contact with her vehicle (no damage done, btw, but even so).  I should have been more careful.  But this punishment did not fit the offense.

And so, I wrestled.  So many thoughts.  I emmensly enjoy a friendly outline, so allow me to list:

  • I wanted to sink and disappear. Maybe Scotch's groomer could give me a new look too. 
  • I wanted to go find the lady and give her the piece of my mind that seemed absent at the moment of conflict.  You know...the words we fantasize we wish "we would have only said...". 
  • I wanted to run into her while I was doing something valiant for my fellow man so she would feel intense remorse as my "kindness" was on display for her to see.  All the while knowing that is the complete sad opposite of what Jesus tells me to do in Matthew 6:3, "But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing".
  • I wanted to curse her back (at least in my mind, being that Alice was in the backseat). 
  •  Since she insulted the condition of my car (it was filthy, yeah, yeah) I wanted to get it detailed and roam around until she saw me and would have to eat her words. 

Yes, all of those things came up in this heart of mine.

But God, what do you want me to do?  Bless those who curse you, Bless and DO NOT curse... I hear from somewhere deep inside... that still, small voice.

I knew there was opportunity to be had.  Opportunity for God to get the glory for this story.  You see, if I had thought of the "right words" to zing back at her in the moment, I would be asking for forgiveness and regretting what I modeled to my daughter.  If I grew bitter, went into the "what if" mind games any longer, longed to show off some sort of kindness to brew regret for her... I knew Satan would be getting the glory for this story.

So I pray, thank you, Jesus, for protecting me from my own mouth.  Bless her, Lord, I choose to forgive.  Alice and I prayed together for this new person on our prayer list.  We asked God to speak to her, to bring salvation for her, to bless her, to love on her, to heal whatever wounds caused her to lash out in such a rage to a complete, pregnant stranger for an unnocticable bump to the rear driver side door of her car.

As the day went on, every time the getcha fantasies came (and they came, oh they came), I prayed, Alice and I continued to pray, Wes joined us in prayer, until that evening I prayed again, and something shifted.  I felt such intense sorrow and compassion for this woman from deep inside.  I knew God was getting the glory. 

Who is getting the glory for your story today?  It is so easy to let the day to day drift away, totally unaware of the impact interactions, disappointments, victories, hurts and frustrations have on the world around us. 

By God's grace, I surrendered to His will...this time.  There have been many moments, my friend, I am sorry to say, where I have allowed Satan to steal the show by my words, thoughts and actions. 

That day, my daughter saw her mom living her faith, regardless of her feelings and the actions of another, my day did not make a massive downturn into depression and "woe is me's", my husband did not come home to a bitter wife, and a stranger who may have no one in her life to pray for her...does now.  The next time may be different, but this time God got the glory.  Thank you Jesus.

Do you have a God glory-story to share?  Please do!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Not Fighting the Season

I hear it is spring in some places...

I see TV ads, billboards and the like with springy slogans, people talking about spring cleaning, spring clothes in shop windows...spring, spring, spring- everywhere talk of the spring season.  The only thing is-it sure still feels like winter (earrrrllly spring at best) here as we continue to have rain in the forecast and highs in the 40's.

I even changed out Alice's winter clothes for spring and summer last week, hoping that would somehow usher in the warm sun and blooming flowers.  Ahhh, no dice.
We have lived here for 3 winters now and this is still a shock to my native Arkansan self.  I'm telling you friend, this southern girl is doing some major spring yearning and trusting God to sustain me until this crazy "cloud cover" (as people not-so affectionately call it up here) clears and warmer air arrives in Northeast Ohio.

I have come to many conclusions, some wrong I'm sure, but one I think I may have right is that my Jesus uses much of the ordinary to get at my heart.  I'm sure we can all at least humm along to the Byrds' hit song, Turn! Turn! Turn! that gets its roots in the book of Ecclesiastes in the bible.

Which, by the way is what I'm screaming...for the love!  Turn! Turn! Turn! Green, pollinated and spring!

But all the screaming is getting no turning. 

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."

OK so God, if I'm going to resolve to be a woman who stands on your word...ummm there is a purpose to this cloud cover?  And not it's not just related to soil composition and lake effects, but could it be Your divine purpose in my heart?Can I tell you the times I have prayed that Jesus would cause me to passionately love the cloudiness?  There are people who live here and tell me He has done that for them, which I KNOW is nothing short of a miracle.  Can I be honest?  He has chosen, in His infinite wisdom, not to do that for me...even though I have earnestly pleaded, and begged, and cried, oh and I'm talking on the knees. 

Lord!  Make me crazy for clouds!  Lord in the name of Jesus give me a LOVE for all things snowy and white!

Still, the moment has not come when I open my curtains in the morning, see the grey-ness outside and love the sight.  And so I wait, pray and press in...

But, you know what He has caused to grow in my heart?  Perseverance, trust, dependence...just to name a few things I would never take back for the sunshine in April.  I have had to press into Him daily and sometimes moment by moment...

 Listen to James 1:3-4, “Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”. 

Could it be, dear friend, that the cloud cover in our lives is about God's divine purpose in our hearts?  We want to break free!  We want sunny days...sweepin' tha clouds away (cue Sesame Street theme song...hit it Alice)! 

Sometimes God allows the clouds to linger, for a season, so that He can finish a work in us, so that we will be mature and complete...not lacking in anything.  Sick or healthy, affluent or in lack...sun or Ohio cloud cover.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Marriage, Part 3!

I had every intention of not writing another post on marriage, then while getting ready this afternoon (yes, I "get ready" mid-day, so if you see me before 3ish do not alarmed if I'm sporting some rockin unbrushed hair atop my head, little to no makeup and my mommy "high heels" ah-hum, sketchers shape ups...yes I have had them for a year, they look fairly ridiculous, and no, I still don't know if they work.) God really spoke to me.

I am reading Lysa Terkeurst's book, Made to Crave...excellent.  The tag line on the front says "Satisfying your deepest desire with God, not food".  Truly, there is more truth in this funny, insightful book than I could summarize for you- so read it if you are able. 

Anyhow, she is bringing up the "it's not fair!" thing that we all struggle with at one time or another.  She expresses a good one you may be familiar with...Why can my size 2 friend eat a cake in it's entirety and I can't, God?!  Then cites a brilliant answer from a friend of hers, E. Titus, who says, (And don't miss this dear friend!!)

"I remind myself that God didn't make me to be her.  You see, He knew even before I was born that I could easily allow food to be an idol in my life, that I would go to food, instead of Him, to fill my needs.  And in His great wisdom, He created my body so that it would experience the consequences of such a choice, so that I would be continually drawn back into His arms."


Ok, then.  This is a marriage post.  So there I was getting ready for the day at 3ish, disgruntled about something going on between me and my husband.  It is this point of tension in our marriage- and it has been there since the "beginning".  You know what I mean have that area with yours too. The area that no matter how many times you address it, pray through it, bring encouragement in all the worst and wrong...and even Godly and "right" ways...maybe not much has changed between the two of you in said area.

Oh my, have I asked God to change me, to remove the longing that sometimes aches for Wes to be and do the things that I am wishing for...after all- God you created me this way...right? 

Lemme just say, I am convinced I married the best man I have ever met.  I could go on and on, but I will spare you the gush of how awesome I think my man is.  But, let's face it, we are all human, I fail him.  He fails me too.  (Sounds so easy in those terms, doesn't it?!)
So back to the quote in Lysa's book.  Whoa, did God ever use that today to speak to me about my husband. Allow me to take the quote above and insert my hubby-issue (we will call it "issue X" to protect and honor my main man) in exchange for food:

"I remind myself that God made me to go with Wes.  You see, He knew even before I was born that I could easily allow "issue X" to be an idol in my life, that I would go to Wes, instead of Him, to fill my needs.  And in His great wisdom, He gave me my husband so that I would experience a few withdrawals of "issue X", so that I would be continually drawn back into His arms."

Are you like me?  What is the X-factor in your marriage (money? romance? leadership?) that God in His divine providence, allowed to be placed (or lacking) in your mate, to draw you closer to HIM?    I can almost assure you that there is something you long for in your mate- that is unperfected, as there is in all of us

Has it ever occurred to you that God has a purpose in the lack?  And, that His purpose in it may have more to do with propelling me and you in to a deeper relationship with Christ, rather than changing our spouses?  Let me be sure to communicate: The goal is not to lose the longing in our hearts, but to cast down the idol.

You see, this is not about Wes.  This is about Catherine and Jesus.  I know this may seem a familiar tune-but be encouraged as we hear it anew today...this is not so much a "change me, not him Lord!" message (which is good, noble and true and needs expressed) but an invitation to take a look at the idols in our hearts that we beg our mates to feed when our God is the only true Bread.

Could it be, friends, that God is continually concerned with our ever-fickle hearts and positioning things in our world to cause us to line up with Psalm 73:25, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you."... instead of trying to "fix" all we see as "broken" around us...

Let me know your thoughts and what God may show you!!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Funky Times of Marriage Part 2

Please excuse the lengthy, pregnancy, winter sickness and travel have made for quite the time crunch lately.  Did I mention we found out we are having a BOY?!  All praise to God for a healthy baby boy on the way!!

Anyhow, speaking of winter sickness and the funky times of life...

Wes and I recently traveled to Colorado for a conference where we got sick, sick, sick.  On the plane ride out there, we stayed on the same aircraft for 2 of the flights...where we got to observe something quite telling go down.

In the row in front of us, there was a guy sitting next to the window and one in the aisle seat, with no one in between them for the first leg of the flight.  Not much going on for the two fellas, a little "ginger ale please", "I'll pass on the peanuts" and "please return your seats to their full and upright position" was the extent of their interaction to the world outside row 5.


She arrived.  When the plane stopped for a short layover in Tulsa, a cute blond got on and sat right in between our quiet guys in row 5.  Wes started feeling sick almost immediately (we later found out it was distinctly a rough G.I. bug, but still very timely). 

These guys went from silent types to winner and runner-up in the biggest and best "One-Upper" contest I have yet to witness.  You know what I'm talking about people...window guy mentions he is going skiing at a friend's place right on the slopes; aisle guy mentions he owns a place on the very same slope.  Window guy has his own business; aisle guy buys and sells businesses.  It went on and on and on, I kid you not, for the entire 1 hour and 40 minute flight.  Honestly.

The whole scene brought lots of eye rolling to Wes and I, as his stomach got sicker and sicker.  But seriously, on a another level the "look at me show" brought a real insight into the heart of a man.  It was clear: they longed to be heroic to someone, to be the best to someone, to capture someone's awe...and they would fight for it if they had to.

Isn't that so true about our husbands ladies?  In a life full of the daily grind ho-hum, there is something in deep in the heart of our men that longs for us to notice. To notice the work they put in at work, yes the boss sees, but when is the last time we thanked our hubbys for providing for us, drawing out their concerns, or celebrating and aweing at their matter how large or how small?

I love Proverbs 20:5, "The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out." 

May I paraphrase the verse this way:  "The purposes in our husbands' hearts are deep waters, a wife of keen study, care, understanding and with God's help, draws out his depth."

Wes mentioned to me recently a friend who said "I just don't think I am very deep," ...devastating, we both thought.  Of course our guys have depth, God created them so.  And God has given us a unique place to draw them out within marriage, and a unique desire on the part of our husbands to be drawn out by us.

One my biggest struggles I have HAD to overcome is learning to listen.  I can talk, advise, fix somebody all day (hey, I am a blogger...right?) but learning to listen is an art I am still trying to master. Check out Proverbs 18:2 "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions."

So to paraphrase the opposite, "A lady of wisdom finds great pleasure in understanding a situation, and would share opinions with caution and discernment."

Lord help me.

Can I be honest?  Most days when Wes comes home I want to hand over charge of Alice and dinner and do a flying leap into the bathtub, all while verbally dumping on him all that went wrong in my day. 

Then I hear Prov. 18:2 in my spirit, I get a gentle reminder that Wes has had a lot go on for him that day too... and God has given him me (yes, he is stuck) to be the person to draw him out and notice.  I certainly don't want him floundering on a plane, or in his heart becoming shut down....because I haven't taken the time to notice him.

This is part of laying down our lives, ladies.  Sure, we have a TON going too, but that's another post, and this one is getting us in better shape for our guys.

Interestingly enough, our two guys on the plane were both married.  They both talked about their wives and families.  It wasn't that they were looking for love, for cheating necessarily....but they were looking, aching, begging for someone to notice.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Funky Times of Marriage Part 1

It is on my heart to do a "mini" series on being a married lady... the funny, fun things, the challenging things and the heart-change things...enjoy!!  Also pray for me as I write over the coming weeks...God bless you in your marriage, guy or gal!

I come to you today with much 'fear and trembling' to share with you a topic a-burning in my heart.  A "burden" to share some truths about being a wife is welling up in me and comes on the heels of a men's panel we had at our mom's group last week.
Wes and I seem get in "funk" sometimes...(you know one of those 2 or 3 day stretches where you just argue seemingly non stop?  Anyone?) I just don't have a better word for it.  You both feel funky apart or together, the mood is, well, funky, yuck.

We are real people and we just have times like that.  It's like God allows something to come up in one or both of us and there is a "painful rub" (if you will) between us until we finally get with God, get together and open the lines of humble and loving communication.

A mentor of mine has called this "rub" between us the "sandpaper" of God, ah hum, marriage.  (Happy on the quotations today "apparently")  The stuff that we have to face about ourselves...sin, expectations, disobedience, hardness of heart, past experiences, (need I go on?) when we are forced to live with another human in covenant relationship. 

Oh it's hard, but so awesome- as it is that very course, gritty sandpaper makes us more like Jesus if we allow the Holy Spirit to move us into God's love for each other and Christ's perseverance. (2 Thess. 3:5)

Over this series, I would like to share with you some things God had lovingly showed me in the funkiest of times. 
Anyhow, it was one of those sandpaper times for Wes and I.  Yes people, we have those, this is how I know so much about said "sandpaper".  It seemed like we could not even open our mouths without simple conversation turning into an argument.   For fictional example: "Pass me the ketchup," says Wes and "What do you mean by that?!" says Cat.  You have been there, right?!

Ugh, feels so defeating, doesn't it? 

must admit I usually begin to just pray (and pray even though I know better) that God would change my husband...he's the one who needs it God...and if God you could just show him how asking for the ketchup was so hurtful, then he would repent of his ketchup asking ways and I would forgive him.

Ok, so arguments in real-life are sometimes (not always I humbly confess to you) more major than the ketchup meltdown, but don't we so often apply the "God fix him, he's wrong" attitude of prayer and conflict resolution?!

Of course, dear friends, it may be true that hubby is in the wrong, not hearing you, being selfish...etc.  But to first start by pointing out his mess is simply not biblical.  Let me say again, much fear and trembling. I don't communicate this lightly, fellow wife,  knowing the many, many pains most of us have been through or will walk through in marriage.

Jesus tells us (I like to think He is personally pleading with me and my thick head) to 1st remove the plank in our own eyes before pointing out the speck of dust in another's.  The psalmist models for us earnest heart change prayer when he cries out "show me any offensive way in me!" 

Not him, me.

I am beyond thankful I have a patient God and that He has given me a patient husband, as I seem to have to learn certain lessons over and over again.  Let me also say, I am also thankful for the countless girl friends who model this for me daily, Shout out!  You know who you are sisters.

If we believe the Bible is God's very word to us, we must follow dear friends!  Do not grow weary, do not grow faint as we choose to resolve conflict in a mature, loving and biblical way.  Oh there is a cost.  It will hurt, we may not get it right every time, our flesh certainly won't like it, but on the other side there are mountains of blessing for the faithful! 

When we humble ourselves (only by the power of the Holy Spirit, certainly not in this girl's strength!) to hear our husbands first, this is truly, daily, in the trenches of life-application, what Jesus refers to as the greatest love of all "laying down your life for one another." 

Forgiveness before repentance, listening before speaking, acting in love while feeling injustice...all lower the walls of the precious man by my side, if not at first, eventually, and if not at all, then we choose to trust God that His word is true.  If walls remain, we rejoice knowing we are not carrying around unforgiveness and the burden of demanding our own ways and rights, but that God has enabled us to lift up our hubbies before ourselves.

Come back for more of what is learned in the funks...Bless you!