Thursday, February 23, 2017

Great Expectations






                           How Bold Are You?

     If I have learned anything in almost 43 years of living it is that doing something new is scary.  However, it can also be exhilarating.  When I was 16 years old we had an amazing youth group come visit us.  They were from another church in Missouri.  These youth had decided to bravely pray and ask God to use them to minister to other youth groups and He used them in a mighty way. Nothing seemed different about them at first, until the evening of their special service.  They came walking in singing Rich Mullin's Our God is an Awesome God.  I had heard this song before, but in that moment, as they sang, God was in that sanctuary and I knew I was in the presence of the most high God. I had asked Jesus into my heart at age four, but I had never been sanctified and I wanted that.  As this group of brave teens sang and entered into our sanctuary, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I needed more than just a four year old's desire to please and love God, I needed his Spirit in me.  It took me years to realize that was the moment of my sanctification.  That moment changed my entire life and any possibility of me walking away from my faith in Jesus Christ, died that very day.

     Tonight as I spoke with the church teens, our lesson was from You Can Do Hard Things - it is a teen devotional on YouVersion Bible.  We talked about God's expectations for our lives, which are pretty high versus the world's expectations, which are pretty low even I felt the spirit of conviction.  The world says we are incapable as teens to do anything amazing and we should mess up. But God sees us as a child or an adult and He knows that even teens can be great.  The world wants to lull us into complacency, it has low requirements for us.  God says, "Follow me and I will make you fisher's of men".  Jesus didn't say it would be easy, but it is certainly never dull.  And because when I hear God speak I am willing to leap into action on His prompting, I had some good examples of great expectations and how they can become amazing journeys with the teens. We laughed and enjoyed the meeting.  But the highlight for me was seeing their eyes engaged and lighting up as I challenged them and encouraged them that they CAN BE AMAZING if they will allow God to use them.  And then I acted up on that expectation.

    Tonight I challenged them to pray and ask God to make them bold for Him and brave enough to move out of their comfort zone - and then asked one of my shy teens to please pray for us.  It took him a few minutes to breathe deeply, but he did it.  And even if it may have seemed short to others, I thought it was beautiful. I am so proud of him.  :D
 
     Here is the biggest thing in all of this.  We do not know what tomorrow brings for us. If I know one thing it is that nothing is guaranteed, I knew this after losing my Dad when I was small.  While Jesus told us to not be afraid because God took care of the flowers in the field and the birds in the air, he also warned us that we didn't know when God would come again.  He can come like a thief in the night or we can die tomorrow.  We just don't know.
   
     Now for the tough questions.  Are you stuck in a life that is comfortable?  If you are would you willingly shake off what would be comfortable to meet God's great expectations?  What could God do if you allowed him to move you into the uncomfortable places but you trusted Him and his wisdom?   Even more to point I ask this. . .Are you ready to be bold?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Perspective

                       What Is Your Perspective?

     Growing up I usually saw the glass as half full.  However, during my teen years and early college years the glass definitely felt half empty.  Instead of seeing that God could use my trials as a way to relate to others, I saw them as one more way in which I was different from other people.

    Somewhere along the way that began to shift, I am not 100 percent certain when exactly, but it did.  Maybe around the time I read Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life (a good book to read by the way, I highly recommend it) combined with Sarah coming to live with us.  Either way I began to realize I could choose to focus on the negatives in life or I could choose to see the blessings.  A funny thing happened...as I chose to shift my focus it shifted my attitude.

     A good example is yesterday I got my left pointer finger slammed in between a dining room chair and the cushion.  It hurt... A LOT!  I could whine about how it hurt even now (it's a 1 on the pain scale really so I'd be a HUGE whiner if I whined about it, but stick with me for the purposes of this blog)  however, I choose to be very thankful that I caught my pointer finger instead of my ring finger.  You see I have permanent nerve damage in my ring finger, so what is manageable now on my pointer finger would hurt significantly more.  I know this because I have had the misfortune of slamming said ring finger in a car door - it takes much longer for it to stop throbbing than my other fingers.

     Another good example: We are currently a family sharing one vehicle.  I could whine and moan and groan about how inconvenient it is.  And believe me it is inconvenient on Sunday's if Chris works.  Instead, I choose to focus on this is a great opportunity to focus on homeschooling and doing what I should be doing instead of what I like to do which is to run around and take mini-drives to explore. While that may not seem positive, it really is very positive, because it helps us focus on what is necessary instead of caving to temptation.

     King David understood the importance of perspective.  Continually in the book of Psalms as he laments, we see him turn his lament into praising God for his mercies and grace.  King David quickly realized that without God his life would be nothing and instead of whining, he chose to praise God even in the storm.  

    How do you choose to view life?  Is it full of looking at the negative side of things?  Or do you choose instead to count your blessings?
I have found that counting your blessings while sometimes more difficult always seems to improve how I see life.

    By the way something else happens when you choose to see the positive...you are less afraid of living your life.

I hope you all have a good week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, February 16, 2017

What is love?

     I have been thinking a lot lately about love.  What is love? What does love really look like?  What does it mean to truly love someone.  How can we show love to each other and our significant other?  More importantly do we go out of our way to show the people in our lives that we love them?
     Chris and I have now just celebrated 16 years of marriage.  While our first five years were not awful, they could have been improved upon by each of us.  I was naive and foolish and didn't safeguard my marriage as I should, letting Chris know what I thought was okay and what I absolutely wouldn't tolerate.  In my effort to be a kind, caring and understanding wife, I did not realize that not everyone had our best interests at heart.  Not just our marriage, but us as individuals.  Growing up in a family who loved me unconditionally left me ill prepared for the harsh realities of the real world.  I did not realize that some women see a wedding ring as a challenge to go after a man.  Or that even though someone talked a good talk about their relationship with Christ, it didn't always mean that they were above board. Things happened that at the moment seemed disastrous, but God turned them into a great catalyst to encourage us to make our marriage strong or fireproof if you will.  So I thought I would share some of the ways we keep our marriage fun, strong and affair resistant.

     1. Build Each Other Up: We make it a point to build each other up.  We both make it a point to tell each other how wonderful we find the other person. We share what makes us proud to call each other wife/husband.

     2. Help Heal Old Wounds:  My dad died when I was young and my mom remarried for 2 years to a man who was emotionally and psychologically broken...that brokenness spilled out into his relationships with my siblings and myself as well as Mom.  This created in me a fear of abandonment and truthfully, a fear that something bad could happen at any time to Chris or the girls.
     Chris grew up being told he wasn't smart and that his younger brother was smarter, would grow up to be successful and affluent.  Worse is that teachers in private and public school fed this lie.  It left Chris feeling as if he had married a woman who was smarter than he.  This is absolutely and unequivocally untrue.
    Chris does things like calling when he is running late to help me know he's still coming home.  I build up his ego about his intelligence.  We both tell each other we think we have a sexy partner.  These are a few things I can share that we do....we have a few things I won't share (because my mom and pastor may read this).

     3. Flirting:  Flirting is important.  Whether it is something as simple as a wolf whistle at your spouse or pretending to be a stranger hitting on your significant other, it works.  More importantly we find ourselves often laughing and have a good time.  It also usually ends with some kissing.

     4. Date Your Mate: This one is very important.  Especially if you haven't do this in a while.  Sometimes we go out someplace nice.  But often our dates are simply going to McDonald's for a drink and talking.  Maybe we take a nice walk together, but it is about carving out time for just the two of us without children around or fighting.

     5. Little Things:  It's not just the big things that make a marriage, it is also the little things.  Surely, this one isn't a surprise.  A good marriage is about the little things.  Making your loved one's favorite meal, warming up the bed with a heater blanket, opening the window before they head to bed because they like it cold or even warming up the car in the morning so they aren't freezing as they commute or start the day.  When we do the little things for our spouse or loved one, it says I am paying attention. I am listening to you and trying to speak your language.  These little things can make the difference when facing big problems.

     6. I LOVE YOU MORE:  When my mom married my dad, her father told her something very wise.  He told her to make sure she and Dad said, I love you everyday.  She then shared it with us when we married. This tidbit of wisdom holds Chris and I in good stead.  It works to strengthen our marriage.  But our favorite way to say I love you hands down is the I Love You More Game.  Sometimes it's as simple as we are playfully arguing over who loves who more.  Other times we have reasons why we love the other person more.  Sometimes it's a fairly simple answer as "I love you more because I took you out for sushi and I didn't really want sushi" or it can be as complex as "I love you more because I didn't tell your family off or someone that would have taken it out on you".  Chris won a few years ago by telling me he loved me more because after I left very upset and took a walk to talk to a girlfriend he told his family off for me.  He won.

     7. Defending Your Spouse:  Standing up against your family for your spouse is VERY important.  I hate confrontation but Heaven help anyone who messes with Chris or the girls.  I will find it within myself to tell you off if you hurt them.  The same goes for Chris.  We do everything we can without reason and God's will to protect our family.  By the way this includes defending your spouse against a child from another marriage - that one is very important. 

     8. Be flexible.  This one is very hard sometimes.  As I grow older I struggle more to be flexible.  After growing up moving often and having a lot of instability in the last 16 years I have learned to love stability.  It doesn't mean I still don't get bitten by the moving bug occasionally, but it happens less often now and I find contentment in staying home.  However, there are times it's important to be flexible.  Whether it is about your spouse's raise not being what you know he/she deserves or giving up plans because you know it isn't in the budget, flexibility is necessary.

     9. Save Your No's:  If you say no to your spouse all of the time, after a while it loses it's power.  Plus, you aren't your spouses parent.  It's one thing to say no to your children often, because children come up with some crazy ideas sometimes.  However, it's important to make sure you always saying no to your spouse.  Also by saving your no for something important, it holds more weight.  At this point in our marriage if I say, No, Chris knows it's important for him to listen and vice versa. 

     10.  Sometimes it pays to be stubborn.  In 2005 we had a problem arise.  A woman attempted to break up our marriage.  She could have succeeded, except I am thankfully stubborn when needed and this was one of those times.  I refused to quit and give in to what someone outside of my marriage wanted.  We are now celebrating 16 years of marriage and she is nowhere near our family.

     11.  Dream with your spouse.  Some of us are not dreamers by nature.  I understand that, but dreaming is important.  Dreaming is half of the fun.  Chris and I often dream about what if something exciting happened.  For example:  What if we won the lottery?  You have to buy a ticket to win, which we don't, but that isn't the point of our dreaming.  It is about dreaming of endless possibilities and how we could make a huge impact.  Chris is dreamer, I love this about him.  If you aren't used to it, learn for your spouse how to be a dreamer.  It makes life more interesting and it breathes life into your marriage.

     12.  Marriage Before Children:  Children grow up and leave home, your spouse doesn't, and you CHOSE your spouse.  You made a conscious choice who you wished to marry.  You do not choose your children (obviously, adoption is an exception to that statement) and children leave as they mature and are ready to leave our safety.  DO NOT CHOOSE YOUR CHILDREN OVER YOUR SPOUSE.  Do not put your children before them.  It's a recipe for disaster and many marriages have fallen apart because the spouses choose the children over their marriage.
These are just a few of the things we do to keep our marriage strong.  I hope you all have a good rest of the week.

Another exception to this last piece of advice is if you discover your spouse is abusing your child, emotionally, physically or sexually (or all three), PLEASE LEAVE AND PROTECT YOUR CHILD.  This is one of the few exceptions to number 12.

In Christ,
Maureen