30 September 2008

Still Waiting

So I can't help but wonder if I am being especially picky, or is it a good thing to be so choosey when it comes to finding a new church home. I am also a bit frustrated how things can look so good "on paper" (or websites in this twenty first century) yet seem a bit lacking in reality.

As we picked up Justin from his Sunday school class this past Sunday, the teacher said something to him about seeing him next week. His answer was, "probably not". This confused the teacher a bit, but it made Paul and I laugh. We explained that this was the third church we had visited in four weeks. She jokingly said to just pick one and settle down.

But I am finding this harder in reality to do than it is to say.

With each visit, I really hope this will be the one. I really want it to be the one. I get excited at the programs and classes offered, the social prospects listed on each website. Some have come with high praises and recommendations. But so far, there has not been peace in my spirit, so my wandering will continue.

This process is making me realize two very specific things.... first, it is showing me how good I had it in Virginia. It is making me realize how much I miss everyone there and the whole dynamic of our church there. Secondly, it is reminding me how much I do not like to wait.

As I was laying on my bed last night thinking about how long this process might last and how I am so tired of waiting, a startling realization... actually a complete "duh!" moment suddenly crashed through my consciousness.

This entire year has been about waiting!

How could I have forgotten this? The past 10 months has been a process of waiting.... waiting on the Lord... waiting on orders... on a van... to move... for housing (we had to stay in temporary housing over a week in limbo).

I can be a very impatient person, and waiting is not very easy for me... but this year much of my waiting has been easier than normal because I knew I was waiting on God to move in my life. I should realize this is still true on this particular journey as well. But somehow I had forgotten these past weeks that there is something to learn in the wait.

I am also forgetting to turn to the Lord with each visit, with each website looked at. I am not asking Him where He wants us. I have been so hungry to find our place that I have also forgotten this part of the equation.

I know that God has brought us here to New Mexico, and I know He has the perfect fit for us. But until I start turning to Him, listening to Him, how can I really expect to find the answer?

Lord God, I thank you for the patience You have with each of Your children. As we wander off on our own trying to find our own way, You gently wait for us to come to our senses and refocus on you. Please help me always remember to seek You first, and help me remember that waiting brings the opportunity to practice patience. Lord, place us where You want us and show us the way we should go. I love you. Amen.

24 September 2008

Staying Clean

I am a slob.

Plain and simple.

I do not like to clean up after myself or others, especially my children. I do not like the consistancy involved in teaching my children to clean up after themselves regularly. I have lacked training and discipline in my life, and many times this has gotten me into trouble, especially when slob merges with pack-rat.

Not pretty.

But this morning as I was looking around my kitchen that is just beginning to collect a little clutter, and I realized something quite magnificent! God has prepared me for this HUGE house! Isn't that so cool?

When I lived in a largish apartment in Virginia, I got myself into trouble all of the time. I couldn't keep anything clean and tidy. My house was in a constant state of chaos. But to be honest, most of my life was in a constant state of chaos, especially my eating.

I would let things go for weeks, not wanting to clean. It would build and build and build. And then when I could finally stand it no more, I would put all this effort and work into getting things done (usually in anger). Then I would feel like I shouldn't have to do any of this again for a long time because afterall, I just worked my butt off.... and then it would build and build and build. Never ending cycle.

I was embarrassed to have anyone over. My "clean" wasn't as good as many people's "messy". I would stop by someone's house and hear, "Please excuse the mess!"..... the only problem? I would look around and think my clean isn't even close to this. It was discouraging, but I really wasn't willing or ready to do anything about it.

After I began to take control of my life, starting to get "cleaned up" so to speak, things began to change, a little. I began to get my eating addiction under control, and after awhile I was beginning to get ready to tackle the other disabling problem in my life.... the clutter.

God used a move to a small apartment to help shove me through that door. To the amazement of many of my friends, I got rid of half the stuff in my house. Many might think I am exaggerating here, but I am not. If you are going to move from 1700 sq.ft. with outdoor space to 1000 sq.ft. with no outdoor space, then you have to be willing to let go of some of your stuff.

I spent six weeks slowly moving in one car full of stuff at a time. Each load I would find a home for each item until everything had its place, then I'd return for another load. At the end I had to finish giving away or throwing away what would not fit in the new apartment.

Once we got settled in, we learned very quickly that when you live in a small place, it does not take very long, or very much stuff, before things get cluttered and messy. What used to take weeks to drive me crazy now took only a day or two of neglect before I would stop everything to clean up again. I was finally learning some discipline and consistancy.

I also began to realize that part of my slob problem was rooted in the fact that I did not want to take responsibility for the fact that this was my job. I was responsible for maintaining my home, and teaching my children to clean up after themselves. No one else was going to do it. By not doing it I was only hurting my family. And being lazy. Boy, that's a hard one to swallow, isn't it? Not always fun to own up to your shortcomings and then try to do something about them.

I lived in that apartment for a whole year, almost to the day. Twleve months of doing my dishes every day instead of every three or four. When your kitchen is as small as that one was, there is no place to leave more than one or two meals of dirty dishes, especially the way I cook with numerous pots and pans.

We only had one room that was large, and I wanted it as roomy as possible to help the apartment not feel like it was closing in on me. You see, I had lived in a 900 sq.ft. mobile home in Illinois several years ago that became known as "my box". Small spaces aren't too bad at first, but after awhile they will close in on you if you don't keep your stuff under control. I did not learn discipline and consistancy from my box... instead I learned that I didn't like child services coming to my door for environmental neglect.

SO knowing I did not want to get myself into the trouble I was in before (letting my stuff control and disable me in my small space), I worked hard at keeping up with my work. My clean was still not as good as other's clean, but I also learned to be comfortable with my environment, knowing I was learning and working hard. As a natural slob, I tend to forget the deep cleaning stuff that truly makes a clean house shine. I don't know if my house will ever shine, but I'm ok with that!

Even though I worked hard not to increase our stuff in our little house, we still managed to move 10,000 pounds of household goods to New Mexico. Twice what they estimated per room. But in my defense, I do have a lot of furniture... and yarn... and computers... and instruments. But bottom line, I think I did a pretty good job only bringing stuff we actually use. I don't have boxes that have been packed for years... you know the ones. You don't even know what's in them cause you haven't opened it in three or five years. When you have no storage, that stuff is the first to go.

So we arrive here, were assigned quarters almost two and a half times bigger than what we had at Fort Monroe, and when you think about it... it could take a long time to get this place very messy. With all of this space, things can collect quite a bit before it gets crazy. So this is where the preparation comes in.

As I looked around my kitchen at my little bit of clutter, and thought of the couple of loads of laundry that needed to be put away, and the shoes and toys in the living room that needed their homes, a delicious thought occured to me.

I wanted to clean it up before it got bad.

That is SOOOO cool! After a day or two of letting it go, I was ready to get it cleaned up. I don't want to wait until "I have to"... I wanted to do it now before it becomes a problem. God really used that time in my little apartment not only to train me, but to prepare me for being able to handle the responsibily of such a large house.

I am to the point where I like things straightened up. The laziness still rears its ugly head every now and then, but I have learned to say no to it 9 out of 10 times. I have learned to tell my self that I may not want to do it, but I need to do it because it has to get done.

Wow! I think I'm growing up!

Lord Jesus, thank you for this amazing house You have given us. And thank you for preparing and training me this past year to be able to keep up with all it entails. Remind me when I need to give myself grace, and when I need to give myself a good kick in the butt. Please help me stay consistant and not backtrack on any of my acquired discipline. Lord, help me live and work for Your glory. I love you. Amen.

Still Looking....

A couple of weeks ago, Paul and I took the kids down to El Paso to try out a Vineyard there. After our experience at the other church that was so far out of our comfort zone that we knew it was not a good fit for us, we hoped we would have better luck here. As a Vineyard church, it was definately more comfortable. Although we didn't know the songs, it was in the same style of music we were used to. The atmosphere was more what we were accustomed to, and the teaching was good. And the younger two kids really like the Children's Church program that they offer.

But as I was standing there Sunday during worship, I started thinking about if it was really the right fit. Sometimes we have those pants that are oh so comfortable, but just because something is comfortable doesn't mean it is the right fit.

When I was talking to my friend a couple of months ago about a church she visited, she told me that she loved it immediately because so many people came up to them to welcome them. They wanted to talk to her and get to know her and her family. They were so happy to see them visit, and this made my dear friend feel very good.

Of course, with my people issues that I have been working through this past year.... I immediately said, "I like it when people don't talk to me." That was the part I always dreaded most and made me feel so uncomfortable. I was one of those unusual people who preferred to be left alone.

But as I was standing there this second Sunday in a row, I began to realize that maybe the Lord has brought me even farther than I had thought. Because as I was standing there and realizing that NO ONE was coming up to us and welcoming us.... not a hello, we are happy to see you.... No one asking us if we were new (aside from the first visit when the greeter showed us where to take the kids) or where are we from or how'd you hear about us..... that we could walk right out feeling like no one would notice our presence, or absence for that matter..... I realized that I did care about being noticed, being welcomed, seeing that people did care whether or not we were there. The fact of the matter was that the only conversations we had were ones where we approached the pastor and youth leader and initiated them. And that was the first Sunday. No one talked to us at all the second Sunday.

I began to think about why we were there. Being in somewhat of a state of seclusion these past several weeks, I am hungry for fellowship. I am hungry to a point where I am willing to let it push me out of my comfort zone. (I am even seeing this same thing in my shy introverted daughter who is afraid to meet people..... but she doesn't want to be stir crazy anymore and has a need for friends that is pushing harder than her need to be comfortable.)

If all I was interested in was good worship music and teaching, I could download that and watch it at home. These are important aspects to our Sunday worship time with God, and I know I get more out of something live than taped. But the bottom line is that what drives us out of the house each Sunday morning is needing intimacy with God's people as well as with God. You can't get that sitting at home and watching a service online.

At this point, I am not sure about how this church fits. Is it too early to tell? Do we need to give it more time? Or do we need to continue our search? I don't know if this is like a pair of pants that fit and I just am not sure if I like them yet? Or do I like the pants ok because they are comfortable but they don't fit right? These are questions I have been asking myself this week.

Then on Monday night, Paul and I attended a Christian home school group meeting. As we were getting to know some of the ladies afterward, the subject of churches came up. One gal was talking about one of the services here on base that is led by a couple she calls "completely blessed". She told us that listening to the sermon was like watching the Holy Spirit. She said she doesn't think He remembers half of what he says because so much of the sermon is the Holy Spirit moving through him. That sounds neat to me.

Now we had avoided going to a service on a base chapel because we know how limiting a service run by a chaplain can be. You know, the whole separation of church and state. (I have read articles where chaplains have gotten in trouble for speaking the name of Jesus.) We did not expect to find a spirit filled service. Paul didn't want to waste his Sunday on a watered down bland service. But this pastor isn't military. He's not a Chaplain, so he isn't regulated by the government. I wouldn't mind giving it a try sometime... even though the music is gospel and we normally are not fans of gospel music. But I'm not ready to rule it out yet.

Then we also got into a conversation with another gal who just loves her church. They visited for the first time ten years ago, and she fell in love with it immediately. What drew her to this church is finding a church body where the people loved the Lord and they want to walk with Him every day, not just Sundays. She said they were the most honest people she had ever met, and she has found no hypocracy. If people need help, prayer, whatever... they ask rather than try to pretend everything is ok. There was even a major split in the church years ago between the pastor and the congregation, and at the end, the leaders stood up and said, "We screwed up. We need to figure out where we went wrong and fix it so it doesn't happen again." Then they spent the next year studying God's design of church leadership.... using their Bibles. One of their statements online was about leading a church according to God's word, not politics and church doctrine.

I could completely understand where she was coming from. It is so refreshing to be part of a body that cares more about their relationship with God and serving Him then all the nonsense that can rule and destroy a church. She told me that after all this time, she still does not know what lead to the split because there is no gossip and talking behind people's backs in this crowd.

It is a baptist church, and I haven't always had the best experiences or heard the best things about baptists churches, but preconceived notions can often be wrong. I don't think under normal circumstances I would choose to go to a Baptist church. (Turns out the church leader on post is Baptist as well.) But under normal circumstances I wouldn't have wanted to come to New Mexico either. But I don't want to stay at a Vineyard church just because it is comfortable. I do not believe that God brought us 2000 miles to be comfortable.

I want to keep an open mind. I want to see that God has some higher plan, and I think He is calling us to think outside the box. But as we try out these new places that have been recommended to us (a great part due to the people there)... I will remember a word that was given to us in prayer before we came.

A friend praying for us told us to remember to not make it about the people. When we go into a new church, don't just look at the people to decide if it is the right place. Instead, we need to seek God and look for His Spirit moving through that church. But of course, one of the ways His spirit moves is through His people. But I think the point is that I don't just want to be at a church where there are nice and sweet people doing good things. I want to be in a church body where God's spirit is living and moving through them, bringing about God's fruit.

My husband and children have seemed content at this new Vineyard, so I felt a little uncertain bringing up my concerns with him, not knowing exactly where he stood in all of this. But I also knew that the Holy Spirit was promting me to keep looking. So as I began this discussion with Paul, I asked him, "Does it bother you any that no one has come up to talk to us at church?"

And then he said... "Now that you mention it..." , and we both realized that we were indeed somewhat on the same page. God is awesome. I love how almost every time I'm nervous about bringing something up to my husband, something I think the Lord is telling me but also something that he seems content with... in reality, the Lord is already speaking to his spirit about it, even though sometimes he doesn't realize it until after I bring it up.

So he agreed that he liked this Vineyard because it was comfortable, and not necessarily because it was the right fit. And although he likes being comfortable, he agrees that we should probably keep looking for a better fit. I love this wonderful man the Lord has given me! He is so supportive, and mostly unselfish. His heart is chasing after God, and we are on a wonderful adventure together!

Lord Jesus, thank you for all of the wisdom and opportunities you are opening up for us. Please help us hear your voice and follow your will for us in our search for the right fit. Place us in the church body that you want us to serve and grow in. Thank you for the new relationship opportunities you are bringing into our lives, and keep moving us away from comfortable and always toward you. I love you. Amen.

18 September 2008

Letting Go So God Can Take Over

I have a friend that I have not seen since Justin was a baby, maybe even longer ago... I can't remember. Actually, I think maybe it was around my birthday when I was pregnant with Justin. Anyway, this friend recently got in touch with me via the internet and has started to read my blog.

Although she grew up "in the church", she has not yet received Christ.... but boy is the Lord chasing after her!

She asked me, "How are you able to let go and let God take over?"

I tried to answer as best I could, but as I am sure many of you would agree, this is not an easy question to answer. I have seen friends who have been believers for decades still struggle with this. I even wrote an entry in July about how hard it can be to let go and surrender to God.

SO that got me thinking. If it is hard for us as believers to do it, knowing what we know and having experienced the amazing power of God in our lives.... than how much harder (and scarier) is it for someone who is still seeking?

I read the words my friend has written to me, and it amazes me the knowledge she has already soaked in. She has a lot of head knowledge (as I like to call it) about Jesus and what it means to be a believer, but this head knowledge hasn't quite become heart knowledge yet.

Isn't that where we all get into trouble? Even when we understand something logically (head knowledge), when we don't feel it (heart knowledge), it somehow hinders us from moving forward. It can prevent us from letting go and surrendering. If you think about it, surrendering your will to someone else is very scary, especially if you do not know or trust the one you are surrendering to.

I think back to four years ago when I became a believer. I knew there was something desperately missing in my life. And I think the Lord had his hooks into me by the time I showed up at PVCF. As I went through the ALPHA course, I acquired a lot of that head knowledge that I did not yet have. In the midst of it all, I took the plunge and asked Jesus into my heart. I became a believer. But I am not so sure I really surrendered my life to God at that time.

He began to change my heart, and I was definitely a new creation in Christ, but I had trust issues that really prevented me from truly surrendering my life to the Lord. Of course I couldn't really see them so much back then. It wasn't until a year after I came to the Lord when He first asked me, "Why don't you trust me?"

Even though I was trying my best to "surrender" to the Lord, He knew what was in my heart... my fears, my trust issues, my control issues. He knew what was in there that was really preventing me from letting go. I wasn't really letting Him work in my life the way He wanted to. So the next few months were filled with obstacles in my life that the Lord used to show me I could indeed trust him.

After that, true trust began to build slowly, as did my confidence. I began to reach a point where I knew I could step out and do something new and scary, because God was growing my faith and had shown Himself faithful. I knew in my heart and not just my head that He would see me through anything and everything.

My friend is so close to a life altering decision, one I think in her heart she wants to make. She has even said she isn't sure what is stopping her. She hears the Lord whispering His love for her. She sees that the Lord is knocking on the door to her heart. She recognizes that when she opens that door, it won't just be a crack... it'll be thrown wide open. And she knows when she finally surrenders, she will be so much happier.... and saved.

Lord God, thank you that you love every one of your children, and Your desire is to bring each and every one of them to You. I lift up my friend to You and ask that You continue to pursue her. I ask that You open her eyes and heart even further towards You, Father, and keep whispering in her ear how much You love her. Place the people in her path that can help her seek You even more. Thank you for the work You have already been doing in her Godly husband and in her children. Please give me the words You would have for me to speak truth into her life. And thank you for reminding me how precious it is to surrender to You. I love you, Lord. Amen.

17 September 2008

Remembering the Good Things

Have you ever had to break up with someone? A boyfriend or girlfriend? A friend? Maybe even a husband or wife?

In my younger years, I was almost always the dumper in my relationships with boys. But as far as friendships went, they often either faded away or exploded. Not really one person ending it.... the friendships just ceased to exist. Fade aways just seem to happen, and sometimes it is awhile before you realize it. No drama. No chaos. No hurt feelings. Just circumstances of life, like moving away or switching schools. Living a military lifestyle, I have seen many friendships come and go for the simple reason that one of us moved, and we never stayed in touch.

But I have also had some tumultuous relationships that ended very poorly. Feelings are hurt. There is a lot of anger on either side. There is nothing attractive left about the other person. Often we are happy to see these friendships go... never to look back again.

But what happens when the person you have to break up with is someone you love?

I remember as a teen hearing of my cousin, who was five years older than me, breaking up with her boyfriend of five years because he didn't want to get married, and she thought five years was long enough to wait. She loved him, in fact her whole family loved him. But she wanted a family, and she wasn't willing to sit around and wait another five or ten years for that commitment.

Sometimes there are circumstances in life that create the necessity to end a relationship with someone you really care about. I think this can be so much harder than just ending a bad relationship.

As someone who has had problems with codependency, I was the fix it person. I was the caretaker. I wanted to do everything for everyone else. And it got to the point where I realized this was creating problems in one of my relationships. I couldn't stop trying to "help" my friend, and I had allowed her to depend on me in ways that were not healthy for either of us. The Lord asked me to surrender this friendship.

I loved my friend very much, and I didn't want to hurt her... but I knew I needed to do what the Lord was asking me to. Unfortunately, afterwards I didn't know how to be around her. I couldn't talk to her. To be honest, I couldn't even look at her. And I know this hurt her very deeply.

Now I am in New Mexico, and the extreme stress of physical interaction is no longer present. And now I am left with my memories. I am left to acknowlege the importance that this person played in my life. I am left to greive the absense of a friendship that meant a whole lot to me.

It is common for codependents to look back and romanticise the circumstances of their relationship, wanting to go back and just be a part of it again because they have forgotten the reasons why it was unhealthy. This is not what I am trying to do. I know what aspects of the friendship were unhealthy, and I recognize that we can never go back to the way it was.

But I also think to not look back and remember the good things about my friend (and our friendship) would be a disservice to both of us. And to be honest, I need closure. I need healing. And I want to remember the good things.

My friend is a beautiful woman of God.

She has a heart so big that she wants to help everyone around her. (She may not always be able to help, but she wants to.)

She has a way with people that is truly a gifting from God.

She can talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime with her sweet smile and enchanting southern drawl.

She knows how to draw someone out of their shell and really listen to them.

She always tries to look for the good in a person, and then she'll tell you what that is.

She has a love for the Lord that she is not afraid to let anyone else see.

She is deeply devoted to anyone she considers family.

She is one of the most loving people I have ever met.

She is gentle and patient (even with babies running around her).

She will always tell you how much she appreciates something you have done for her.

If there is something wrong, she wants to talk it out and fix the problem.

She has a silly sense of humor that makes everyone around her laugh.

She is constantly singing silly made up songs to make her loved ones laugh. (And leaving voice mail singing telegrams.)

She gives people endearing nicknames.

She makes awesome chicken enchilladas.

She is devoted to her husband, and passionate about her children.

She loves her friend's children as if they were her own.

She will befriend almost anyone.

She is kind and gentle in spirit.

She is a prayer warrior.

She is a survivor.

She has more strength than she knows.

I will miss my friend dearly, and I pray for the day when Jesus brings us back together again. I hope that she can forgive me for where I have fallen short and know deep inside I never meant to hurt her. I hope she will remember the good things in her memories as well.

Lord Jesus, I ask for healing and closure not only for myself, but for my friend as well. Please bring her comfort as she greives, just as I know you will comfort me. Help us both see what your plan is in our lives. Help us heal and grow in you, Lord, so that one day we may be able to meet again and begin anew, building a healthy foundation for a new friendship. Let her know how much I have loved her, and how much I love her still. I love you, Lord. Amen.

16 September 2008

Painful Days

September has always been a good month in our household. We celebrate the births of the two guys I love most on this earth. Justin's birthday is early in the month, and Paul's at the very end.... but sandwiched in between are other birthdays for loved ones who are currently not a part of my life. And these days are proving to be quite painful for me this year.

Thoughts and memories of these individuals have flooded my mind lately, and with them brings much sorrow and pain. Relationships have been ended or put on hold for Godly reasons, but that doesn't stop the hurt I must process whether I want to or not. Even though I did what I had to do, there is still loss to greive. My heart aches, and I am not sure what to do with it.

I wanted to run from my pain, and while in Virginia the circumstances allowed me to do that for awhile. But I knew all along that once settled in New Mexico, it would catch up with me again. And as it turned out, God has used the timing of this month to insure I'd be found. I can't hide from it anymore. I can't put it off until some other time because that time has come.

I don't have quite the same support system I had before. I can't just pick up and run off to so and so's house for encouragement and prayer. Instead I have to lean exclusively on the two most important men in my life.... Jesus and my husband, Paul. I am sure this is part of God's timing as well.

Denial is such a harsh world to live in. And even as we come out of denial and begin to recognize the reality around us, there can still be such a numbing power over us that stops us from fully walking into that reality. I have stepped out of a dysfunctional world, choosing to walk away from it and seek healing, knowing that there would be pain to work through and process. But I was letting the power of denial work it's numbing magic on me to put off actually going through the steps of processing that pain. But sooner or later the novocaine must wear off and the effect will be felt. And then the healing can begin.

Lord, the pain is deep and it is raw. And I don't want to go through this process. But I know that You are here for me every step of the way. I thank You for Your faithfulness. You promise in Your word that You will never forsake us. Please give me the strength to take these last steps into reality, and help me receive Your healing. I love you. Amen.

14 September 2008

The Sweet Heart of a Distructive Child

My son just turned seven. Being the youngest and only boy of the family, he constantly amazes me with how different he is from his sisters. As a little boy not yet at the age of reason, his choices are not always very good ones. But no matter what kind of trouble he gets himself into, he remains a boy with a very sweet and tender heart.

Our new backyard is flooded with grasshoppers. I have seen grasshoppers before, but not often. Living all of my previous 34 years of life in the middle of biggish cities, I have not had the opportunity to see very many. But here they abound a plenty. Walk through our large yard, and you will see dozens jumping out of your way. They jump against the house, bounce off the windows, and mate just outside our utility room door.

Yesterday, Tricia and Justin spent about an hour chasing after them trying to "catch" them on the ends of their sticks. They were fascinated, and it was cheap entertainment. I was surprised how long it kept them occupied.

So today, after being in El Paso all day, we got home a little late in the afternoon, but Justin was eager to run outside to his new hopping friends. After a little while, he came in telling stories of removing a grasshopper's back legs. He made the mistake of telling Tricia, who immediately went into little mommy mode and started to scold him. Having heard the whole thing and knowing what he had done, I decided I was not going to make a big deal out of it. Afterall, what little boy hasn't done something of the like to insects? I remember my brother trying to fry ants with his magnifying glass.

Paul, however, heard the incident also, and he decided to explain to Justin that now that the grasshopper didn't have his legs he wouldn't be able to jump, or protect himself. He would have trouble trying to get around to eat, and he probably wouldn't live very long.

This was very hard news for my sweet boy to swallow. He came to me with such a sad face, wanting comfort and feeling so sorry for what he had done to his grasshopper. In his curious distructiveness, he hadn't realized he could hurt it.

A few minutes later he called in to his dad to ask what a grasshopper eats. He wanted to take it to his food to help him live. Then he announced that he wished that "God would have made grasshoppers to help each other out if one of them got hurt." He didn't want the grasshopper to die. He wanted to help it live so it wouldn't become bird food. (We have been watching the birds swoop down and scoop up theses little buggers all week.)

My son's heart really moved me today. How many of us make mistakes, doing something destructive (physically, verbally, or emotionally) that hurts someone else? Do we so quickly realize how we have hurt another? Do we so eagerly want to try to make ammends? To make everything right again? Sometimes we do. But not always. Sometimes it's just too hard to admit when we are wrong. We want to deny that our behavior has been destructive towards something or someone else. We let our pride get in the way of repentance.

I guess watching Justin today was another opportunity to witness exactly what Jesus meant when He said that unless we are like little children we will never inherit the Kingdom of God. Justin wasn't worried about pride or filled with arrogance. He wasn't unwilling to admit that he had done something wrong. And he wasn't afraid to say he was sorry. His concern was not for himself (or getting out of trouble). His heart was tender and pure as he genuinely wanted to help that grasshopper and try to make things right again.

Lord Jesus, thank you for all of the little children, especially the ones you have given to me. Help me teach them your ways, but also help me remember that they are teaching me as well. I love you, Lord! Amen.

12 September 2008

Boxes, Boxes Everywhere!

Moving is a very tiring process. Yesterday, 9100 pounds of stuff arrived at my front door, including almost 140 boxes. In about 30 hours of work, I have made it through all but about thirty of those boxes. Some were passed off to the kids to put their stuff away, but the majority of them were left to me. Needless to say, I am exhausted.

I didn't sleep well last night. My legs ached from foot to groin, but of course I was too stubborn to get up in the dark to try to find the Motrin. It was also quite cold. We are just getting accustomed to the swamp cooler in our house (and how to work it). Also, there is often a 20-30 degree difference on a daily basis between the day's high temp and the night's low. It can be near 80 during the day, but you need all your blankets at night.

I am still amazed at this house that the Lord has given us. It is not the same one we thought we were getting with the amazing landscaping in the front, but the inside is the same. We got through the entire lease signing before they realized our house was not ready for us. They switched us with another house whose prospective occupants aren't due to arrive for another week or two, giving enough time for the paint to dry in the other house.

Our front yard here is bare. It is the only house on the whole street with almost no landscaping. I have to admit I am a little sad about that. They are not planning to put anything other than rocks down, so I will either have to plant something myself or get over it.

But the back yard is another story. The other house backed another house, so the two yards faced each other. This house has no houses behind it, so we have a magnificent view of the mountains. I am excited to get my outdoor recliner swing put together tomorrow so I can sit out on my patio and enjoy the mountains. Our yard is huge and has a large tree that shelters the patio areas. We could have wonderful bbq's and parties out here.

My living room is almost finished, and tomorrow I get my furniture for the sitting room. (That's what I'm calling it..... I guess it is really more like a family room and a living room, but I've never had both before!) We used this empty room to house almost all of the boxes. They were stacked nearly floor to ceiling, two rows out on each side of the door way. Now the garage is half filled with boxes that are either empty or filled with packing materials.

And we were able to get our cable/internet set up fairly quickly.... only a day and a half without, even though it felt longer. We are all so spoiled in this high-tech world.

I hope to be able to take pictures shortly, and I have already taken a lot of the mountains. I'll post them soon. But for now I think I'll take a hot bubble bath.

08 September 2008

Church Shopping.... The Perfect Fit?

Is finding a new church like shopping for that perfect pair of pants? You go into a new place hoping to find what you're looking for, trying something on to see how it fits? We always love it when we find that perfect fit on the first try, but that isn't always the case, is it? My daughter often has to look... and look to find a pair of pants that really fits her young adolescent body. She often leaves disappointed and still in search for just the right fit.

In 2002, God took my unbelieving self and placed me smack in the middle of a homeschool group filled with Christian women who knew what it was to be in relationship with the Lord. This was a side to "church and religion" I had never experienced before, and after awhile it brought me to the point of seeking, especially as my personal life was literally falling apart. By early 2003, my husband and I talked about attending a church, but we never got around to it. That April, my world collapsed and we prepared to move away.... and I prayed (as a seeking unbeliever) that God would send us where we should go. God chose Virginia.

I knew exactly where I wanted to go.... where I needed to go to learn more about God and Jesus. I knew there was a church body for me who were wonderful to my best friend years before. A church body who accepted and loved my pregnant single friend and took her in without judgment. This was where I wanted to go.

When we arrived, some of the people remembered me immediately, even though I had only met them a couple of times, and that spoke volumes to me. They helped me out in my need (my husband had remained in Illinois for a few months). When Paul was there to visit once or twice, we went for a Sunday service, but being on my own and still battling my depression, I was not able to make myself go to Sunday services.

Once Paul was in Virginia, he was only home for weekends, but with his help and encouragement, we began to attend services each Sunday. During his holiday break, he dragged me to a kinship I didn't want to go to. I had social anxieties and didn't really like being in groups of people I didn't know. I also had unpleasant memories of visiting Sunday School with friends growing up, and I hated being asked questions about things I didn't know.... and I knew practically nothing about the Bible. I was out of my element, and not happy about it.

But God captured my heart that night. He spoke through one of his daughters and showed me love I had never seen before. I knew at that point that whatever this was, I wanted it. And God is so wonderful! His timing is so perfect! He placed me in that church body just as they were going to begin an ALPHA course...... Christianity 101.

Pretty much from the beginning of this experience, I knew this was that perfect fit for me. Everything clicked, and I loved this church immensely. I didn't need to shop around and look and look. Years ago I would have said I got lucky, but I know that I was blessed to have come the the right fit so quickly.

I have a friend, however, that I have watched over the years struggle to find that right fit for her. It seemed like she would try on her pair of pants, and the fit was ok.... she liked many of the aspects and characteristics of those pants. Anything that wasn't a perfect fit she could just live with because for the most part she really liked those pants. But after awhile, those little things can become a problem, and you realize they just don't fit as well as you really want or need them to. So then you're off looking for new pants again. I watched her try place after place, never really finding what she was looking for. Sometimes she would go back to those old "pants", because they were comfortable. But then again, after awhile, she remembered this is not her perfect fit.

My dear friend has really been on my mind and heart this past day. She thinks she may have found her fit, and for that I am so excited for her. But now I am in a place where I am starting to understand her struggles in a way I couldn't before. I always wanted to encourage and support her in her search, knowing that we cannot always like or need the same things. I never took it personally when she would leave my beloved church in search for something better suited for her. I always wanted her be happy.... it was more important to me that she find a church home, not that my church home was her home too. But I can't say that I really understood how she felt or what she was going through. I didn't understand the disappointment and discouragement that can come when you are searching.

I didn't struggle like that when the Lord brought me into his kingdom. There was no shopping for trying on for fit. But now we are in a new place, with less options... or at least it seems. Of course we have lots of options... three cities all about 45-60 minutes away. No matter where we choose, it will be less convenient than where we have come from in Virginia. So really I have no choice but to start trying things on.

We went to our first service yesterday. I had liked what I read on their website, and I really hoped that maybe this could be our perfect fit. But it was not. The culture was strange. The music was so loud that I couldn't even hear myself sing, let alone any of the harmonies my husband and I so love..... and at least two of the five of us walked away with headaches. There was no youth program that is so desperately needed for my introverted teen. The people were nice, and I could see as I looked around that this was the perfect fit for many of them..... just not for me. My ten year old has already developed the habit of seeking and listening to the Lord. She informed me after that she asked God if this was the right church for us, and He told her no. I, myself, took my lack of peace as a sign this was not the place for us (not to mention the headaches!)

Even though this was only our first Sunday, I couldn't help but feel discouraged. Sundays only come around once a week after all, and we are so hungry to have a church family.... a place to belong. And thinking about how many more times we will need to go through this before finding the right place became an overwhelming thought. And I wondered if this is how my dear friend was feeling.

I also thought about my church home in Virginia, who are facing their own struggles. They are looking at ways to be more attractive to visitors, ways of bringing people in, but also ways to do that without compromising who they are. As I sat in the service yesterday, I realized that sometimes there is absolutely nothing you can do.... the fit just isn't right. I don't think there is anything that church could have done yesterday, aside from changing who they are, to make me want to come back again. And I know I don't want to be somewhere that people are trying to be what they think other people want them to be. I want to be in a church body where everyone is free to be themselves and that is where the fit is perfect. So I want to encourage everyone at PVCF who are reading this, please don't take it personally if visitors come.... and go. You are all wonderful people even though not everyone will find you as perfect of a fit as my family did.

Lord God, I thank you and praise you for the struggles in life. Although I am not happy to go through them, I know that in my weakness You are strong. Lord, please help me not to get discouraged if this process takes longer than I want it to. Help me use this time to turn to you. And Lord, please bless my wonderful church family back in Virginia. Bring to them those families that will love them and see they are the perfect fit for them. Thank you for your faithfulness. I love you! Amen.

05 September 2008

Do Not Fear...

Did you know that it supposedly says in the Bible "Do not fear" 365 times? If you think about it, that is once for every day. I chose the word supposedly because I have not counted them myself. I began to try once deciding I wanted to look up every verse that says it, but that project got side tracked quickly.

I watched a teaching a couple of months ago at my kinship about fear. Dr. Jeremiah talked about how if the Bible says so many times not to fear, then by living in fear you are being disobedient to God. At the time, that hugely impacted my life and decisions I had to make in that stage of my journey. I was definately letting fear have a stronghold in my life. I have dealt with extreme fears of confrontation, conflict, even people in general (social anxiety and people pleasing).

These are some examples of higher levels of fear in our lives, but I think when the Lord tells us not to fear, He is even talking about the little things.... like tarrantulas.

When we got our orders for New Mexico, a friend of mine (who lived here before) began to tell me about the tarrantulas and scorpions that are prevelent in this area. I have to admit that this freaked me out a bit. Normally, spiders don't bother me too much, unless they are big and hairy. But when I was about my oldest daughter's age (14), I had watched this horror flick from the 70's about these huge masses of black tarrantulas taking over a desert town, pouring into all the houses and killing all the people. Even though this movie was not bases in truth, it did it's job in creating a fear, or mild phobia of tarrantulas.

So one of the things Paul and I did to lighten up the fact that we were moving to tarrantula-ville was to get our mascots. Now I think most of my friends have seen them..... they are cute stuffed animal spiders that are about the size of the largest spider known.... the Goliath Birdeater Tarrantula (10-11 in. in diameter). These cute NOT REAL spiders sit in our windshields, and they have even freaked out some poeple who are spider-phobic. Our "spiderman" Justin loves spiders so he wanted his own (we have three of them). When he took his spider into Great Aunt Dottie's house, she kindly asked it to leave (she's NOT a spider fan). But we think our fake tarrantulas are cute.

The second thing I did was to begin to educate myself. I think there are two basic types of people.... one reads everything they can to become educated on the subject and eliminate their fears, and the other wants to stay oblivious because knowing scares them more than not knowing. The "research VS. ignorance is bliss"...... I am a researcher. So Justin and I read about spiders and tarrantulas.

I learned that they are primarily solitary creatures..... so no herds of thousands of spiders are going to attack me. They also are afraid of people, so they are not going to chase after me to get me. And contrary to probable popular belief, they will not kill you. No one has ever died from a single tarrantula bite. Tarrantulas do not even want to bite humans... they prefer to only bite what they want to eat, and they do not eat people. In fact, they are more likely to shoot the hairs from their abdomens at you using their back legs if they feel threatened. This is one of their defense mechanisms, resulting in all these tiny little hairs that would get stuck in our pours, itching and irratating our skin and making us quite uncomfortable.

So having learned all this information, and also hearing that my friend only had one tarrantula in her garage once in two years of living here, I felt a little more at ease about coming to the southwest. But still I wondered if this would be enough.... I was fully expecting to freak out at the sight of one of these little black and brown monsters.

So last night I was talking to my dear frind Christina, and she asked me if I had seen any tarrantulas yet. I happily told her no but described all the current local warnings for rattlesnakes and scorpions. (There are 22 different kinds of rattlesnakes known in this area with five of them having poisenous venom.) So we wondered if maybe we were getting past "tarrantula season". I never did find out exactly when their mating season is, or how long throughout the year to expect to see them.

We talked on for about another ten minutes when all of the sudden I saw the black spider crossing the road. It was within a foot of the curb, about 12 feet from me, but only 6 feet away from where Justin was squatting down playing in the grass and dirt. I yelled at him to go into the house quickly..... and then yelled for him to get his dad. Then I told Christina (who was still on the phone) that she had jinxed me.

My first reaction was one of being startled and concerned (mostly about Justin), but once he was out of the way, I stood up to move out of its path. I was actually a little curious. So I walked over around the back of it and got a closer look, though I still stayed about 4-6 feet away. Paul came out and we watched it make its travels acrossed the yard. It was an interesting creature. I suggested he go get the camara, so he did. He took some pictures, and I suggested a video. So we have a short clip of the spiders crawling over the grass as I wonder aloud what do you do with them.... cause we don't want them in the house, and we aren't supposed to kill them.

Then I asked Paul if we should get the girls. At first I didn't think so because I didn't want to freak them out, but then I realized that I was not freaking out, and maybe it would be good for them to see them while we were there to talk about them so they would know what to look out for if they are later out on their own. Tricia came out to see, but Nikki chose to remain inside with her iPod.

I came inside to make dinner and was shortly informed that the spider was right outside the house by the front door. I did not like this thought very much, as I still do not want it inside with me. Paul asked if it was the same spider, and the kids thought it was, but we were not so sure. I walked out to the yard, and indeed saw the first tarrantula continuing on his path through the yard about 40 feet away. I walked right past the second spider (within 2 feet of it) and informed Paul it was a different spider... there were two.

Again I voiced my concerns about how do you keep them out of the house, and Paul assured me that it would probably be difficult for them to get in. So I went about the rest of my day, not fearing and not worrying about the spider. And I slept well last night. This morning as I went out into the garage, I noticed that the door leading out the back had a big gap in the bottom. At that point I realized that the most likely place for a tarrantula to get inside would probably be limited to the garage. There may be easy access there, but the doors and windows into the houses are much better secured and do not provide as easy access to these large spiders.

Then I started to realize the peace that the Lord had placed in me about these "little black and brown monsters". I do not need to fear because the Lord is protecting me. Of course I need to be aware and careful when coming into contact with these desert creatures (including rattlesnakes and scorpions)..... but I do not need to fear. Amazing, huh?

Lord, thank you for your protection and peace that you have placed over me and my family. Thank you for your amazing creatures, even when they are hairy with eight legs. Thank you for all of your amazing creation and for the opportunity to see it every day in the beautiful scenery all around me. I love you! Amen.

03 September 2008

Blessed Beyond Belief!!!

After our final 12 hour trip yesterday, we arrived at White Sands Missile Range about 18:20 (that's about 6:20 pm for all you non-military folk). We were met both by Paul's sponsor (another E-6) and his new Command Senior Chief. We got signed into our temporary housing, which is a beautifully furnished three bedroom house that is larger than the apartment I just left at Fort Monroe.

The only thing open for us to grab a bite to eat was the snack bar at the bowling alley. So we munched on our two bacon cheeseburgers and chicken finger basket as we tried to let the realization that we are really here in New Mexico sink in.

Since we got in too late, we had to wait for today to go into housing to find out about where we will live. I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve, excited and anxious, not wanting to wait till the morning to see what great surprise I would find.

I woke up early, a bit before 7 (hey, that's early for me!), and when Paul woke up and saw 7:07 on the clock, he asked me, "So, it's nine on the east coast?" I just laughed and answered yes, cause he knows that 9 is my normal wake up time if I am left alone.

I was excited to see more of the base, so Tricia and I started to walk through some of the housing. The house we are staying in is in "O country" meaning mostly officers. SO I figured this area would not be where we ended up. They are building absolutely beautiful new homes throughout the center of the housing area, and Tricia and I gawked over them while pointing out empty ones. It was too far of a walk to go up to see the last section, these houses were the ones that were the largest three bedrooms but where also much older. But I knew I needed to make breakfast for my hunny, so I headed back.

After Paul finished getting his uniform ready, the two of us headed out the door to go to housing. We drove through all the areas so he could see what he'd missed on my walk, and I could see the section I was unable to. We decided that we liked the environment of the older houses because they had much much larger trees.... and shade. The new stuff was beautiful, and we knew they would be nicer inside, but trees?... not so much.

We walked into the housing office a little uncertain, cause we've not done this whole housing thing before. I was a bit nervous, and it got worse when we were asked if we had an appointment. An appointment? I didn't know anything about needing an appointment. So she brought us into her office and punched in Paul's ss#, and announces that we weren't even assigned a house. They had nothing to offer us in a four bedroom because this new battalion is coming in. We told her we knew that, and in all honesty we were not expecting to get a four bedroom. We said we would be happy to accept anything they had to offer us. Then she told us we were supposed to have called 30 days before we were due to arrive to get an appointment and house assignment.

30 days? We did not know this. The woman Paul had spoken to said nothing to him about calling 30 days ahead. We apologized for not knowing this, and he assured her he would have been more than willing to call if only he had been told. She left the office to see what she could do. I felt nervous and uncertain, feeling like we had done something wrong when we had not. So I closed my eyes and quietly asked God to work everything out for us.

You see, as the time got nearer, and especially after seeing all the different housing, I wanted to pray asking the Lord, "give me this house, give me that.... make it big, make it wonderful...." and on and on. That thought was SOOOO tempting. But I didn't. Instead I said, "Lord, this is what I want to ask for, but I know that YOU are the one who has brought us out here, so what I am going to ask for is that You give us the house (and the neighbors) that YOU want us to have, no matter what we end up with." Afterall, this has been my heart during this whole thing.... Lord, your will, not mine. So why stop now?

So as I was sitting in this office, trying to ignore the enemy's calling that we screwed up and were going to end up in an uncertain mess, I instead reminded myself that God was in control and would work everything out for us. There was no need to worry.

So she walked back into the room and said, "this is what I can do for you.... if you wait three days, I have a 3 bedroom on this street, or if you wait 9 days, I have a four bedroom on this street..."

Paul asked if we could see the map to show us where the houses were, and when she circled them I realized that Tricia and I had walked past both houses that morning. I could not remember what the three bedroom looked like, but I knew the four was really nice cause Tricia told me she wanted a house on that street where they have cacti in the front yard. Paul wanted to drive by both before selecting, though we told her we would most likely want the four.

When we drove by the three bedroom, it was UGLY. I don't think that very many of the houses here were ugly, but this one was. So we moved on to the four. It was BEAUTIFUL!!!! We peeked in the window, and all I could see was the kitchen, but it was HUGE! I squeeled in delight. The landscaping in front was my favorite along the whole street. I couldn't wait to see what it looked like inside. It almost killed me to think we would have to wait up to 9 days to see it!

You see, this is not a house we should qualify for. This is an area that is occupied by officers, NOT enlisted. But TWO days ago, the command decided that since many of the officers were moving into the new officer houses, then they should allow enlisted with larger families to live there. If we had called 30 days ago, we probably would not have had this house. This definately felt like God moving to me. So we stopped by to let the housing lady know we wanted the four bedroom on Jupiter. Then we were able to get our temporary housing extended for another week.

We headed back, after a short commissary trip, to get the kids and walk them over to the new house. I was still squeeling the whole way cause I am so excited. We took them past the three bedroom, and they agreed that yes, it is ugly. When we got over to our soon-to-be house, Paul stopped the neighbors driving by that we had seen starting to move in two houses down. He told her he was glad to see another enlisted family moving in (we were warned that we will most likely be snubbed from our officer neighbors cause they are not very happy to have us there as we are lowly enlisted, and NOT officers!).

Our new neighbor, Sandra, was so nice and sweet. We found out it was her family that might have inspired the opening of this housing to enlisted. She was told the same thing we were... only 3 bedrooms. Just like me, she was quite content to have a three bedroom.... just give us a house, she said. But when the "big guy" (the highest ranking enlisted guy at this command) saw her family and was told they were given a three bedroom, he said no way. If the officers want to move into the new fancy houses, there is no reason her family couldn't have an open older officer four bedroom house. She openly praised God for the blessing of this house. How Cool is that?!!! And I told her about my prayer.... to be placed where God wanted me. Then I thanked her for paving the way for us.

She was so nice that when she found out we hadn't seen the inside yet (and most likely wouldn't for at least a week), she backed up her SUV and three kids and invited us in to see her house (they have the exact same layout).

I almost cried! Literally. I felt God's love and blessing over me so strongly that I almost couldn't contain my self! This house is HUGE!!! Remember, I'm moving away from a three bedroom that was 1050 square feet. This house has a one car garage, a laundry/utility room, a kitchen large enough to put a small table in it if I wanted with tons of counter and cabinet space, a dining room, a living room, a family room, and two medium sized bedrooms and two large bedrooms, one with a three quarter bathroom. There is a double-wide driveway that could easily fit four cars (not including garage space for one), and the back yard is really big as well. We have two large trees back there that provides a lot of shade.

When I got back to the computer and looked it up, I found that the square footage is almost 2400sq.ft.. There are only 17 houses larger than this one (and this one is only 1 of 12). Again, I was overwhelmed by God's blessing. Nikki asked me if we were going to be able to fill this house with our stuff, and I exclaimed, "NO! Isn't it great!" This house is more than twice the size of our last home. And I am beside myself right now.

We have to call on Friday to find out exactly when we can come sign our lease and move in, but we know we will be here in temporary lodging for most of the next week. I do not have much to do this week but wait, but maybe that is God's way of giving me a vacation from my travels before all the hard work of unpacking begins. We can enjoy and celebrate Justin's 7th birthday on Sunday in a comfortable house not filled with boxes. And hopefully we will be all settled before Paul's birthday at the end of the month.

Lord, you are such an AWESOME God! Thank you so much for your provision for my family. Thank you for giving us so much more than what we deserve or qualify for. All the glory goes to YOU, Lord Jesus! I love you! Amen.

01 September 2008

The End Is Near....

....of traveling, that is.

I have been enjoying the restful day today. The kids are enjoying "real food" as I have been able to cook while staying here at Paul's sister's house. Sleeping on the air mattress is not my favorite, but at least tomorrow night we will arrive at White Sands to a temporary house that will include a real bed separate from the room my children will sleep in.

It is almost hard to believe we only have one more day of driving until we are done, but I am so grateful that the end is near. It has been two weeks now since the packers came to box all our stuff, and although I am not looking forward to the work ahead of unpacking, I am immensely looking forward to having a home again.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the strength and peace you have brought to us on this trip so far. Be with us these last days as we settle in our new home you have brought us to. Go before us and prepare the home you want for us (whether three bedroom or four). Place us where we can best do Your work for Your Kingdom. I love you! Amen.

April 2005

April 2005
Justin, Kim, Nikki, & Tricia

October 2011

October 2011