Saturday, August 31, 2013

What changes.

If you were to ask me the biggest change that happens when you become a parent- it isn't what you think; it isn't the sleepless nights, it isn't the diaper nightmares, it isnt the surprising amount of times a toddler can vomit -completely unprovoked. it's something entirely different.
*It's the way a child grows your heart.
Whenever you grow, sometimes you grow too quickly, resulting in growing pains. You get those growing pains when you become a parent. Your heart aches with love for your little one. You will be overwhelmed with the feeling of love.
It's the increase in tear production. Who knew that when your little newborn infant involuntarily wraps his or her hand around your finger, it would cause your eyes to tear up? Or the first true smile, that knowing look of understanding- that makes all the crying, colic, and weeks without sleep so very worth it. Witnessing the firsts- first words (your name- mom or dad), first steps (toward you)...
*It's the increase in bravery. Hearing your name cried out in the middle of the night, running blindly to get to them, knowing you'd run through anything to reach them- feeling their tiny heart beat against your chest and wanting to take away whatever it was that scared them.
*It's the ability to become world's best and most strict safety inspector. Never in your life will you see more danger present in a playground than after you have a child. (And forget about jumping on the bed)
But the biggest change is the knowledge that those feelings, those changes- they never go away. if anything, they increase 10 fold as your child/children get older.
Heaven help us as parents. And God, show mercy on us.
This past week's events have made me all to aware of the fragility of life. And as so many have said; and it is proven over and over to us , we are not promised tomorrow. Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do or say today.
I look at my kids napping and I try to imprint the memories of today into my mind: Cain's mischievous smiles- the way he's learning words and surprising me every day.
Amelia's sweetness and cleverness. Even at two, her big sister powers are stretching, and she shows such love towards her baby brother and big sister.
Lily's maturity, at 8, she sees certain things and knows when to step in and help out. I sometimes forget her age because she shows such maturity in helping out- instead of calling to me that someone needs changed, she does it herself. She fixes snacks, pours drinks, and fixes boo boos as needed.
I don't want to forget the little moments of today. I want to wrap them up and save them for forever.

So when you think about becoming a parent for the first time or anytime after, and someone chimes in as a debby-downer, remember these things.
In truth- everything changes when you become a parent, but a few things are left unspoken- things that seem like common sense but until you have experienced it, until you have felt it- they are just words on a screen.
You can have all the "things" in the world and still feel alone and unfulfilled; and you can be as poor as dirt and have the love of your child and know you are as rich as you will ever be.

Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate (Psalm 127:3-5)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

remember, we're not perfect.

when I was around 8 or 9, I went- at the urging of my friend, to vacation bible school. I don't remember everything about it. I don't remember the crafts, but I remember something that changed my outlook for while.
we were in a small classroom full of kids I knew by name, who unbeknownst to me, were regulars in attending church. I was not. this was my first time in vacation bible school; and other than opening up a bible and glancing through it (I was familiar with the story of Noah), I knew very little about church or the bible.
I didn't know you were supposed to bring your bible to vbs. I know, it seems like common sense, but I didn't know; and since I didn't bring my bible to the classroom, I was given a spare King James Version. (in my opinion, pretty difficult to read at kid level)
we were to go around the table, each of us reading a certain number of verses, and the next child was to pick up where the last one had left off.
the teacher called out the book and chapter. I didn't know any of the books. I looked around and everyone had found the spot. I gauged their bibles, and tried to open mine to about the same spot, hoping to help find the book. I went the wrong way. I was in a panic. I was typically a good student. here, I couldn't even find the right page.
I looked up for help. "where is the book?" I asked. "it's in the new testament," they all replied almost in unison. "right after romans," someone else replied. my head swirled. where was the new testament? where was romans? I felt sick. I wanted to run out and leave.
"if you haven't found it, we'll have to skip you," the teacher said in a voice that to me seemed disapproving.
"I haven't found it," I said, hearing my own voice shake.
I didn't earn any points that day. I hadn't brought my bible, I didn't read aloud. I couldn't come up with a song to sing. I didn't know the words to any of the songs they were singing.
I would come home from the morning spent there feeling like a disappointment. I didn't have fun. I had seen tabs on bibles before, the ones that tell you where the books of the bible are. I thought that would solve my problems, so I had asked about them in that small classroom. i was told that if I actually took the time to read the bible, I wouldn't need those silly tabs. I just thought it would help while i was learning. I didn't finish out that week of vbs and I didn't return that next summer.
I felt like a total outsider...and really, I was. and that's the persona I took on. an outsider.

I wonder how many other kids have gone to a function like that for the very first time and felt that way. what happened to me then-- now, it seems small, unimportant. but I wanted so much to fit in, to make new friends, to learn new things...and the whole thing just backfired horribly.

it made me afraid of church. I felt judged because I wasn't familiar with the bible, because I didn't know their songs, because I was laughed at for asking if they had the words so I could sing along.

later, whenever I was invited to a church, I refused to dress up; partly because at the time, I felt awkward in dresses, and partly because I didn't want to do anything to conform to "them". I would NOT be one of them.."them" who judged a young girl who was there on an invite and was in completely new territory and just didn't have a clue.

I was angry with any church that someone spoke about; surely, they too would've behaved the same way towards me. how dare they.
and that anger grew when my name mysteriously ended up on a church prayer list in a church I had no affiliation with...
and not because I was sick...I wasn't; but because of how I dressed, and the music I listened to. I was so angry and it basically confirmed for me what I had always thought: "they're all alike."

please don't look at this and be angry with these folks. I've gone down that road (see my high school years if you'd like to know why I dressed the way I did or was completely cynical about everything) and really, being angry- it does no good.

I can look back now and think, "good...I needed prayer then." but at the time, wow, I was mad. I was embarrassed. I didn't worship the devil, I was mad about everything. and as for vacation bible school, well, I just chalk it up to inexperience. whoever it was that was teaching, they clearly didn't know it would've helped to have helped me. they had no idea they were molding me into someone. lots of things happen in a person's life that changes who we are or how we react to things.

honestly, it's helped me.
if it weren't for a friend and her mother, I would've never set foot in that church for vacation bible school. if it weren't for a youth pastor and his wife (joy and aaron young- I hope some day to find out where they are now) I wouldn't have developed a thirst for knowledge about the bible- I loved their bible workbooks and after school meetings. if it wasn't for arnie and his mom's urging for us to find a church after we were married, I would've never been baptized, or met the most wonderful people who've become life long friends.

yes, some crappy things happened to me in church by people I perceived as Christians. i'm somewhat nervous about posting this, but I hope that anyone who reads this knows that I don't want to bad mouth anyone. I don't want to give anyone a bad name. they made some mistakes. but guess what: we all do. we can live with mistakes or we can move forward and grow from it. it took me a while, but eventually I let go and grew up.
having been in that position, it's made me a lot more aware of "new" people. I try to go out of my way to let them know they're welcome in any place i'm familiar with.
and I might add- the good far outweighs the bad i'm thankful for everything that's happened and i wouldn't change a thing. we'd all do well to remember that churches are made up of human beings. imperfect, sinning human beings. we need to remember that....and cut each other some slack.


if I could give one piece of advice, it is this: please don't judge or write someone off because of how they dress, or how they look. don't ever write someone off, especially if you see that person in your church. show kindness. show God's love. let them hear "welcome, i'm glad you're here." instead of snickers and whispers. that small act could change that person's outlook on the day...on their week...on their life...and on God.

learning to loosen your grasp (review of TrueBeautyFilm: not of this world )

When asked to review a DVD, I was excited. It's a chance for me to write with purpose, and the fact that I was asked to come back and write for the same group I've previously written for again, it is truly an honor.
Then, I received the DVD. The day I picked it up, our family dog of 13 years passed away. I was shattered. I felt broken. I looked down at my table through tears and saw this DVD: Not of This World. I needed to watch it.
This DVD has been a blessing to me, everyone has something they can take away from watching it. It lifted me up and took away my lost feeling.
Lisa Chan brings you back to your "center". Through real world, real life experiences, Not of This World reminds us that our focus should be always on God and the eternal life He has prepared for us. These things, this place here- it's all temporary.
Through an analogy of camping (this temporary life we're living), we're shown how fun and how exhilarating camping can be. You see beauty and it can be a wonderful experience; but by the end, aren't we all ready to go home?
As Lisa so eloquently puts it, you feel dirty (sins of the world) and can't wait to get clean and put on fresh clothes (clothed in righteousness).
Not of This World uses beautiful imagery throughout, and really brings you back to focus on what matters: God.
I encourage you to watch this short, to the point film. I promise you'll bring something away from it.
Hear Carolyn and Shawn's story. How when you're forced to give up everything, the scripture really begins to light up- you begin to open your eyes and see God moving and making things happen- with God's will backing you all the way.
You become privy to a secret that shouldn't be a secret- all that we're given, everything we're blessed with- it isn't ours to keep. It's ours to share and bless others with.
Once you've experienced that type of kindness, a new chamber in your heart and soul open up, and you see, maybe for the first time, that we're not made for this world.