Thursday, April 29, 2010

what does he see in me?

17 years ago, I was falling in love. A mere 29 days earlier than this very day in 2003, I had enjoyed my last "first meet", not knowing, of course, that it was indeed the last. I had thought it was very nice, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that this guy would be the guy.

We had met in a bar (no shock there, to anyone who knew me then) through a mutual acquaintance, and even that very first night, we had enjoyed a really nice conversation. He shuffled his feet a lot, I tossed my hair a lot, and we both giggled nervously. A lot. He broke the mold of the typical "college guy" (probably because he was already out of college), and was not actually dripping in cologne, thereby leaving a trail of hormones and lust wherever he went. He was tall, which I liked, but kept scrunching down a little bit, as if self-conscious of the way he was built, which I did not like. He wore worn out cowboy boots rather than the latest, trendiest, and most cool shoes that money could buy. He was nice, and was cute enough, but honestly, he was so not the man of my dreams. Or so I thought.

God had other things in mind.

As time unfolded, I began to see in this tall, humble, intelligent, funny, ruggedly handsome, non-conformist, an allure that was magnetic to my soul, and fight it though I may, I fell in love with him. And he with me. And as we fell in love, the same question kept coming to my mind...what does he see in me?? Is he nuts? How can he possibly love me? (Am I the only person who has ever wondered that??)

For example, I had rarely met a Coors Lite or an Amigo's soft taco that I did not like, and my middle showed it. I still had acne. I was still in college and had spent too much time wondering what to do with my life, and even though I was close to graduation, I still was not sure what I was going to be when I grew up. I had no money. I lacked impulse control and had sought out physical comfort from too many men who had not earned it. (Think promiscuity) I claimed to be a Christian, but most everything about me screamed the exact opposite. And even though it was the style at the time, my hair was way, way, waaaay too big. (Think of the early 90's, a perm, really long thick hair with tall bangs, and you might be close.)

What does he see in me?? How can I be worthy of his love??

But, my worth in my sight did not matter. To Dan, I was perfect. I was all he had ever wanted. He did not see the freshman (or sophomore-junior-senior-5th year senior) 30 + pound fat roll around my middle. He he loved my big hair. He was blind to zits. He was still trying to figure out what to do with his life, too. He had made his own share of "mistakes of affection", and was leaving a past behind, too. He was broke, too. And he knew Christ even less than I did. To Dan, I was not a list of wrongs, but of rights. Because he is the right man for me, he overlooked all my flaws and saw only the best in me. It still amazes me.

But more important than this miraculous gift given to me 17 years ago, is the gift of acceptance and forgiveness I daily receive from God. Really, the question should have a capital H in it.

What does He see in me?

What does the Lord see in my soul when He really looks close? Does He see every shortcoming, every failure, every fault, every mistake, every blemish, every...every? Does He see all my fears, my doubts, my insecurities, my worries, my hurts? Of course He does. Does He notice? Absolutely. Does He care? You bet. But does it matter? No.

The God who so intricately knit me together in my mother's womb, the God who can number the hairs on my head, the God who knows my thoughts even before I do...yea, He notices. Nothing is outside of His watchful eye. But nothing can separate me from His love. There is nothing I can do, say, or think that will take one ounce away from His magnificant love for me.


As I daily walk this journey with Him, I am more and more aware of this truth. I still don't fully grasp it, and I hope I never do. I hope that I am forever striving to fully understand Him and His greatness, and the incredible depth of His love for me. What does He see in me?? How can He love me so much?? I just screamed at my kids...surely He is disgusted with me. I just slammed down the phone in anger at the harsh words of a friend...surely He made a mark on my tally. I just ate that whole bag of gummy worms myself without even sharing...surely He cannot trust me. I was just impatient with the man who loves me so well...surely I am unworthy. I just complained about the mud for the 427th time this week...surely I am ungrateful. I just....
I just...
I just...

I just got forgiven. I just found more love. I just drew one step closer to His grace. And to Him be all the glory.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Who sinned?

Once upon a time, a young couple, perhaps newly married and full of hopes and dreams, received the joyous news that they were expecting a baby. “It will be son,” boasted the proud father-to-be, praying that if he said it out loud, he could somehow will it into truth. “Let him be healthy”, said the mother as she stroked her belly and hummed lullabies.

In due time, the day came for their child to be born, and through tears of joy they learned that they did indeed have a son. A son! Praise the Lord! He was perfect and beautiful, and was the embodiment of all their prayers and dreams. Perfect, that is, until they realized that their son had been born blind. The young couple, utterly shocked and dismayed, no doubt wrestled with God on this sudden change of plans. I envision tears and pain…tirades and anger…fear and hurt. I can almost hear them asking, “But, Lord, what have we done wrong?!” The agony of such a realization surely ripped them to the core, living as they did in a time when physical defect was a thing of shame, and knowing instantly that their precious son would be reduced to the status of a mere beggar.

I know the story of another couple, also newly married and full of hopes and dreams, who, after praying for a child and surviving the struggle of infertility treatments, received the joyous news that they too were expecting a baby. At their first ultrasound appointment, that joy was magnified triple-fold when three tiny heartbeats appeared on the screen. “Just let them be healthy,” was the unison prayer lifted that day.

But life took a turn for this couple as well, when just 6 months into the pregnancy, an emergency c-section was performed, and three tiny, underdeveloped baby boys were lifted from the safety of their mother’s womb. Then, just six days later, the monitor above one bed was turned off, and a still, tiny bundle was handed to over his grieving parents to hold for the first and only time. “He fought hard” was the best comfort that could be offered that day.

This young couple also began to wrestle with God. “Why, Lord, why? Why give us three to just take one away? What did we do wrong?!”

As Jesus was walking along, He saw a man who had been blind from birth. "Teacher," his disciples asked him, "why was this man born blind? Was it the result of his own sin or that of his parents?" "It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,’ Jesus answered. He was born blind so the power of God could be seen in him.” John 9:1-3

Instantly, a curse had been turned to honor. Grief to privilege. Sorrow to joy! Imagine the realization for that couple, of suddenly knowing that before he was even born, their son had been chosen by God to reveal Christ’s glory and power. That his years of heartache and rejection had only been for God’s good. That they had never done anything so wrong, so ugly, so undeserving, to warrant that fate, but that they had actually been chosen for that struggle, for that purpose, and for God’s beautiful plan.

I’d love to tell you that Christ personally came to me and revealed why my son had to die at only six days of age, but He has not. That is OK. I don’t need to know. All I have to do is trust that nothing in my life is outside of His watchful eye. Everything can be used for His glory.

My friends, I have no doubt that everyone reading this either has, or is, wrestling with God over something. It may be as major as a health crisis, or as small as a bad week at the office. But what we can all celebrate and take comfort in is this: no matter what we are going through, it is not out of God’s control. Nothing in your life is going unnoticed. God has not--nor will he ever--turn His back on you. Everything in your life is a part of God’s beautiful plan.

If we allow God to work His will in our lives, like the blind beggar at the side of Christ, He will reveal His power in us.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

out of the mouths of babes

First off, let me apologize to the men who may read this. If you don't want to hear a 2-year-old and her mother discussing the female form, now is the time to stop reading. If, however, you are a father or grandfather and know all about the wonderful things a child notices--however embarassing it may be--then, by all means, read on!

So I was getting dressed after my shower a few weeks ago with my sweet 2-year-old in the room, and the conversation went something like this…

“Mommy, I like your nipples.”

“Thanks, Honey.” (How does one respond to that, really?)

“Do you like my nipples too?”

“Yes, Kendall, they are very nice.”

“Mom, you have boobs?” (Breasts is too hard to say with a lisp)

“Yes, and someday your nipples will get boobs under them, too.”

“They will??” (Wide-eyed and amazed)



“Because God made you a girl, and every girl has them.” (Simple and to the point. Maybe she will drop this subject and let me get dressed.)

“God made me??”

“Yes, honey God made you.”

“On the Mii channel??” (Must be time to back off on the Wii!)

“No, Kendall, He made you in my belly”

“Ohhhhh, in your fat belly? You do have a fat belly, Mommy.” (Visualize Kendall with her eyebrows raised, looking up at me as a fitness trainer would if I had gained 5 pounds in a week)

“Yes, I do Kendall, and thanks for noticing.”

Note to self: lay off the cake and lock the bedroom door.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Eat the whole cookie

It has been almost a week since my last post. As a brand new blogger, I am a tad nervous about losing whatever "fan base" I may have up to this point, however big or small it is, if I am not diligent about posting often and posting well. I want to impact my readers, lift them up, call them to think deeper...whatever God wants from this for them. So staying silent for 6 days has indeed conjured up a nervous sense in me. {{stress}} But it's a good stress. I was silent because one does not just rush onward after a sad death. One does not just charge ahead and start making jokes or espousing on life, when grief is still hanging around in the air. God wanted me to use this time to digest where my life is, to ponder what is good and right about it, to let grief hang around as a valuable tool. And hang though it may, I do feel that it is time for a new blog post. Let's talk about cookies...

The other day I entered the kitchen to find a mound of black round cookies on my counter. And some on the table. And, of course, some on the floor. The kitchen and the living room floor. Ground into the carpet. Black cookies circles everywhere.

It could mean only one thing...Kendall (age 2) had found the Oreos.

[Some of you are probably wondering where I was whilst the offending toddler was eating all the cookies. Never mind. It is irrelevant. I am an attentive Mom. Yes, I am. Despite the cookie evidence to the contrary that day, I typically know what she is up to. That is not the point here anyway, thankyouverymuch.]

After discovering the mess of cookies without guts, I went searching for the mess-maker and found her in the bathroom, attempting to wash her hands, with a face so covered in black crumbs that she could have doubled as a hobo. It was amusing. Sort of.

"Kendall, what happened to the cookies?"
"I don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know? What are you washing off of your hands?"
"I don't know." (This is her way of avoiding the subject, as if claiming ignorance is somehow going to throw me off the case.)
"Kendall, were you eating Oreos?"
"Yes." (Ahaa! Now we are onto something.)
"Why did you only eat the white part?"
"Because the white part is yummy." (Duh. Dumb question, Mom.)
"Well, why didn't you eat the black part too?"
"Because the black part is yucky." (Of course it is. They wrap the white part in something yucky on purpose, you know.)
"Honey, you can't just eat the white part. You have to eat the whole cookie."
"But I don't want the whole cookie. I only like the white part."
At this point I said something prof0und and mature like "Then I am just going to stop buying cookies for you." (Yea, right, like that will fix her. We both know it is not true. She'll get Oreos again. Spoiled baby.)

As I walked away from the messy toddler to the crumbs in my carpet (which I did make her help clean, by the way) I got to thinking, How often am I just like my toddler? How often do I take only the part I like, and try to leave behind the rest? How often am I given a good and perfect gift, and then proceed to pick it apart looking for only the best?

So, here for your reading pleasure, are my lessons from the cookie...

1. When God gives us something in life, even if it is packaged a little differently than we would have liked, He does not want us to embrace only the good stuff and try to peel away the rest. We must try to make the most of everything we are dealt. We have to eat the whole cookie.

2. When we try to pick and choose what we are given, it is a lot more work, and we get a little messier. We may even end up looking like a hobo with black crumbs all over our faces, rather than having just a few crumbs on our fingers. Everyone will see what we have done. In the long run it's easier just to eat the whole cookie.

3. When we attempt to use a gift in the wrong order, or in a way other than that which was intended, we can leave behind a mess that someone else has to clean up. We leave big black circles sitting around, as a trail of breadcrumbs, that demand another's attention. We have to eat the whole cookie.

4. When God gives us something that He chooses just for us, He knows that it is only the entire gift that will satisfy. When we pick and choose that which we will embrace, we are left longing for more, feeling eternally unsatisfied. The white part of an Oreo is not nearly as filling as the whole cookie. We have to eat the whole cookie.

5. Unless you are a child, the white part of an Oreo is not really a stand-alone taste. A few bites, mabye; but then we find ourselves longing for the perfect compliment: some black crunchy chocolate stuff. Likewise, many of our most good and perfect gifts in life are not meant to stand alone. Sure, it may be great for a time, but after a while we need to be sandwiched in the entire gift. Life gets tough. Maybe you will feel better if you eat a cookie.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Now I'm the one doing it

Tuesday was a sunny but windy--I mean windy--day. So windy that to have taken my double stroller out on the wide-open gravel roads, even laden with 75 pounds of toddler and preschooler, would have been taking our safety into our own hands. So, as I had promised my five-year-old a stroller ride before preschool, I donned my running shoes and headed to town to walk instead. I passed a tractor on the way. The girls sang along to the radio. I talked with people in town. I bought milk before heading home. It was all very normal, I was living my life.

On October 30th of 1997 I was sitting at the intersection of two extremely busy streets in Omaha. The sun was shining and the unseasonably early snowfall that covered the ground was glistening. The traffic, undeterred by slushy piles of snow, zoomed along. I looked around me as I waited for my green, and all I saw was people busily going about their business. Some were talking, some were singing, some looked annoyed by traffic, others looked plain bored. And then it hit me. No one knows. No one knows what I am going through right now. The sun came up. The earth is still spinning. These people are still living their lives while mine is laying in a pile of rubble back at the hospital. Everyone is still living life.

And it seemed desperately unfair.

I was driving between my parent's house and the hospital where my newborn triplet sons lay. Tyler and Ben were just 9 days old, and between them they totaled just over three pounds. Born extremely prematurely, they were barely clinging to life, and their brother Joshua had died three days earlier. I was living a nightmare, not knowing why this could have happened to me. Racked with Mommy guilt about what I may have done wrong, and what I should have done better, I was planning a funeral while getting a crash course on hospital terminology and pumping breast milk for the babes I still had, each of whom only had a 50% chance of survival themselves. I was as broken as I have ever been. And it was at that moment that I realized that life goes on. Everyone else was still living. The world did not shut down due to my grief. As badly as I may have wanted everyone to freeze in their tracks until I caught my breath, they didn't.

Now I'm the one doing it.

A dear woman, a Mom, 32-years young, full of energy, enthusiasm, beauty, and love, lost her battle with cancer Tuesday and was called Home. Her name was Carrie. A whole town is grieving Carrie's loss, grieving for her husband, and grieving for their children. A whole town feels helpless. And yet, life is going on.

On the warm and windy Tuesday of this week, I took a walk. It was no one other than God Himself who led me to my drawer of rarely-worn tee shirts first thing that morning, to pull out my "Footsteps in Faith" shirt, the ones made for Carrie's benefit two years ago. It was no one other than God Himself who spurred my daughter to beg me for a stroller ride that ultra-windy morning, an activity I have shared with Carrie many times in my life. It was no one other than God Himself who ordained me to offer that walk, just two hours after her death, as a humble tribute to the energetic soul just passed. I lived my life Tuesday, even though a nearby family's life was laying in rubble.

Now I am the one doing it, and it seems desperately unfair.

I have no amazing words of wisdom. I am not the leading authority on death and grief. I am merely reminded that God is in control. Even when we feel like we are spinning out of control, He is still in control. Laura said to me on the sidewalk that morning that God comforted her with a song on the radio. Wendy proclaimed in the drug store four hours after her death that Carrie had met God already. Everyone is walking around searching to find God's hand in this situation, and I pray they are finding it. God is in control. He is not failing to notice. He is holding this world that will keep spinning, the sun that will keep shining, and the lives we will keep living.

He wants us to be the ones doing it.

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace."
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

In loving memory of Carrie.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I am that dork

A strange and wonderful new thing is happening to me lately. Since I went public about my blog 10 days or so ago (and shamelessly sent e-mails to, oh, I don't know, maybe 60 of my closest address book friends), not a day has passed that someone does not mention something about the blog to me...
"Hey I like your blog."
"I read you blog today, I think is is great."
"Thanks for your story. Loved the pictures."
"I can't believe I am married to a blogger."
And my favorite of all, "Your blog is an inspiration to me."

Can I just say, PRAISE. THE. LORD.

Who knew?? I mean of course He knew, but who knew besides Him, that the silly somethings swimming around in my brain could affect someone else's day?? That the annoying habit I have of thinking about everything as an object lesson, could actually be put to good use?? It's crazy!! (In a good way, of course.) It is almost surreal, really...I am officially a "blogger". I think my hair even looks better to me since I claimed that title. It's all very exciting!

The day after I posted the sandwich story, a dear friend said to me that it broke her heart that I had to skip lunch to buy toilet paper, and since then I have been thinking a lot about her comment and that reality. I feel it best, first off, in the spirit of all truthfulness, to admit that I selected the example of toilet paper for the humorous side of it. Cause, you know, TP is waaaaay funnier than Windex. But in our budget, TP and cleaners both fall into the category of "miscellaneous necessities", and what is more necessary than TP? Not much in a family of eight. Not much. But were we actually in danger of using leaves and scratch paper in the bathroom if I had eaten a sandwich that day?? Maybe not. Then again, maybe we were. It is all in the choices.

If you have never heard of Dave Ramsey, I highly recommend him. He has taught me more in one easy-to-read book, The Total Money Makeover, than years of stumbling around by ourselves, believing the lies of modern society, ever taught us. The biggest lie we were believing was we must have it now. Wrong. Or how about the lie that says budgeting is too hard. It's not. Or my personal favorite, credit cards are my friend. I don't think so.

Driven much by fear, but trusting totally in God, and empowered with some brand new knowledge thanks to Dave Ramsey, Dan and I took a good hard look at our finances a little over a year ago, and boldly decided to cut up all but one credit card, and that one was left at home on the shelf to collect dust. We condensed to using only one checking account. We even got the dorky envelopes from Dave's website and started putting cash into categories. Yes, that is me, the one at WalMart who divides her purchases up by category, and takes four hours in the checkout lane, so that I can buy the socks with "clothing" money in the "clothing" envelope, and milk with "grocery" money in the "grocery" envelope, and toilet paper with "miscellaneous necessities" money from that envelope. I'm the one who saves a measly $10 a month so that we can license our car once a year without dipping into grocery money. At first, I was embarrassed when I went into the bank and asked for such a large lump of money divided into such a specific combination of bills. I was embarrassed to be in the checkout lane digging into 4 different envelopes just to buy the 8 things I had on my cart. It's counter-culture and a tad embarassing!

You know that commercial, the one where the happy music comes to a screeching halt when someone uses cash instead of credit? Where all eyes whip to the one who has no plastic? I am that dork. It's me. Now you know. I have known it for years, but my dorky-ness usually only rears its ugly head when I play any organized sport, or try to design my own Halloween costume from household articles, or attempt any sort of craft. For the most part, I think I have been pretty good at hiding the major dork in me...until now. However, with this new cash-only envelope system, with happy music screeching to a halt every time I hit any checkout lane, I feel like painting it on my forehead just so everyone will know that I am that dork.


I'll let you in on a little secret about being that dork. It's liberating. Oh my gosh, truly liberating. Who knew? Who knew?? I mean of course He knew, but who knew besides Him, that embracing the Biblical principals of tithing first, saving before you spend, abandoning all credit, and some good old-fashioned self-denial, would be so liberating! It's amazing! It's dang hard sometimes, but it is amazing.

And you know what? God is not failing to notice. Everything falls under his dominion. Even whether we choose toilet paper over fast food is important to God. He is not failing to notice any "little" thing we do to get our lives just a little more right with Him, and He rewards His faithful. For example, He watches when His little ones tithe first. (Forgive me for this next part, but what fun is a captive reading audience if I don't toot my horn just a little bit?) Tithing is a huge strain at times to keep it up, but God loves a cheerful giver. We once had a financial advisor suggest our cash flow would look better if we would "consider giving less to charitable contributions". We thought about it for approximately 7.2 seconds and said NO way. We'd never get anywhere if we had abandoned the one thing we actually did right. God is not failing to notice. He watches when His faithful pass up a new shirt to make sure there is enough in the clothing envelope for back-to-school. He watches when we deny ourselves for His principles. He watches the hard stuff we do just to be right with Him.

No, Dan and I are not getting rich just by giving up plastic and embracing our dorky-ness, but we are now totally debt free. One year, debt free. He used amazing people and unexpected gifts (perhaps more on that in another post sometime), He used lots of our tears, and He used a huge measure of His strength poured down into us and our little envelopes, but with His help, we are debt-free. I may have mentioned it before, but God is GOOD.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who has promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The best sandwich I ever had

About 10 years ago, my Aunt got married in Philly and I (along with much support from my parents) drove out with my then 21-month-old twins to attend her grand affair. As part of our adventure, we took a day trip into New York City. It was the first and only time in my life I had (or still have, for that matter) been to the Big Apple. It was mind-boggling for this Midwestern gal, despite having grown up in Denver, that so many tall buildings, so many cars, and so many people are crammed into such a small area. I was both awed and annoyed by the experience, and proud to have had it.

On that day, we ate lunch at a little cafe with black and white floors and funky bar stools. I am certain it had NYC unique-ness and character oozing from the very bricks that supported its walls. I'm just sure of it. I ordered a fantastic--absolutely fantastic--sandwich that has lived in infamy in my mind ever since. It was wonderful. It was divine. It was luscious. Dare I claim this sandwich was Heavenly? Mmmmm. It was a portabella mushroom sandwich, and I kid you not, this mushroom was the size of my face. De-lish.

That sandwich was so good, and the experience so unique to my life up to that point, that the re-telling of the sandwich story has been almost as good as eating it, and for a great many years now. It is a great conversation opener, for example, in the produce department upon passing the mushroom case..."Aaah, I remember a sandwich I ate once in New York City that makes that withered mushroom here in Nebraska look like a weed." Or at a restaurant with funky bar stools..."Well, these stools are very nice, but compared to the ones dripping with mushroom juice in New York City, they are stiff and unforgiving." Things like that.

I can now claim, however, to have truly eaten the truly best sandwich of my life, in my not-too-distant past and not-too-distant travels, right here in good ol' Northeast Nebraska.

I won't pretend that Dan and I, and our children, don't live very tightly budgeted. We do. While our choice for me to stay at home all these years is a good one, and his choice to remain committed to the family farm is the right one, those choices have taught us one of many valuable lessons...budgetbudgetbudget. And budget some more. And perhaps sometimes go without. Like this day, for example, I was skipping lunch because I decided to buy toilet paper instead. But I was hungry nevertheless. And while those lessons are mighty in importance and eternal in significance, sometimes it sucks. Sometimes a person just wants to throw the budget out the window and splurge. It was a day like that, a couple of months ago, when I was aching for the permission to splurge on a fast food lunch, but through prayer and persistence, was not. I was resisting. {gritted teeth} I admit I may have even been doing a little pouting. {sigh} Maybe. Just a little.

Anyway, it was on this day of power and pouting that I went out to shop, and on the way, the radio was on. My local Christian radio station, as is typical, was holding their daily "Bible Brainbuster" trivia contest. Ooh! Cool! I heard the promo, I got my phone. I dialed up the number, I waited. They asked the question, I knew the answer, and I hit send. AND I WON. (Sad to say, as I sit here, I cannot for the life of me remember the question, but I am sure you would have been impressed.) I, Shelly, whipped out some Bible trivia and won. And can you guess what I won?? AN ARBY'S COMBO VALUE MEAL! Praise God! I won lunch!!

Proud as a peacock, I whipped my car right to the station and picked up my bronze certificate, and headed straight to Arby's to silence my grumbling belly. Not typically an Arby's fan, this day it did not matter and I ordered with flair. A turkey bacon club, thankyouverymuch. Not to be too deterred from my time agenda, I decided to just eat in the car. As I ate, I, of course, continued to listen to the very radio station that had just bestowed such good fortune on me. And as I listened, I found myself drawn into a segment on starving children in the world. I heard, much to my horror, how many children die each day due to malnutrition and malnutrition-related diseases. The statistics are staggering. I heard a plea to do something to save dying babies with bloated bellies and wasted limbs.

And while I sat there in my car, in the parking lot of a mall, in the richest nation in the world, with my plump and healthy two-year-old smiling over her curly fries in the back seat, gorging myself on an over sized sandwich given to me for free, just because I can read my Bible without persecution and can afford a cell phone, I began to weep. I wept over every last bite. And all I could think was, Who do I think I am?! What makes me so deserving? Why am I so special?? I did nothing other than to be born here, and they did nothing other than to be born a world away in an impoverished nation. I don't have to watch my children suffer and die. I don't have to sweep a dirt floor in a drafty hut. I can talk on my phone and drive my car and buy all the toilet paper I need.

And yet, even here, in America, while I bask in arrogance, God reminded me that He is still meeting all my needs. He is concerned even for my lunch on a day when the budget wins. He is so big, so real, so true, and so right, that despite all my unworth, despite all my pouting, He is willing to meet my needs, right down to a lowly sandwich. He rewards the unfaithful, He cherishes the lowly, and He uplifts the downcast.

I don't know why or how I managed to be so very blessed, to have been born at the latitude and longitude of this great earth that He chose for me, and why I was not born in a hut in a wasteland, but what I do know is that God is in control. He has my life in the palm of His hand and will oversee every detail if only I will let Him. He loves me and cherishes me and claims me.

That day, I was once again reminded that God is not failing to notice. I now have a new "best sandwich" story. The best sandwich I ever had. To Him be all the glory.

Monday, April 5, 2010

My life as a have-not

My entire Clan of In-Laws (minus a boyfriend who had to work) went bowling on Easter Saturday. All 23 of us, plus my own little sister, piled into the little 6-lane alley in Smalltown America and bowled til our thumbs were sore and our shoulders begged for mercy. For a few of us, that takes two full games. For others, it was about three frames. I am somewhere in the middle, although I persevered until the end of game two. It was not pretty. Thank God there were 15 kids there to take the pressure off, and I was not the worst bowler in the room.

I have not the gift for bowling. Or any organized sport, for that matter.

Following the escapades of the bowling alley, we pressed through an evening of dyeing Easter eggs, showers, and baths, and fell exhausted into bed in anticipation of what the morning would bring. Easter Sunday came early and began with those familiar words known oh-so-well to every parent: "Dad! Mom! Get up! The Easter bunny came!!" How wonderful! Amidst the trails of candy wrappers and Easter grass on the floor, our salvation was found once more. Christ is alive!! He is risen! Eat a chocolate bunny in celebration!

I have not a clean floor or a small waistband.

After a truly lovely church service, I attempted the impossible. At least it is impossible in my world. I attempted to get one good--just one good--photo of my children in their Easter best. I am intelligent. Dan is intelligent. Our children are intelligent. So can anyone tell me why it is that getting one--just one--good photo can be such an impossible nightmare? Sometimes this process can be enough to make me want to scream out "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? WHY CAN'T YOU JUST SMILE?!" (In Christian love, of course.) Thankfully, this year I did not scream. I laughed. But nevertheless, despite the odds, despite the past evidence to the contrary, I attempted these oft-sought-after photos again. Hope springs eternal, especially on Easter. Here, for your pleasure, are my failed attempts...

I have not children who can sustain attention toward a camera. I have not a beautifully landscaped yard with a gorgeous spring backdrop. I have not the patience for this process.

What made Easter truly lovely for me this Easter was not the baskets, candy, or ham dinner. It was not the music at church or watching the black drape come off the cross while I wrestled with a two-year-old who was overtired and wired on sugar (not a good combination). What was lovely for me was the laughter of children running circles with their cousins. It was the squeals of "go faster!" while they got to ride in the back of Daddy's pickup on our gravel road on our gorgeous spring day. It was the "aroma pleasing to the Lord" in my backyard. It was the sticky faces covered in roasted marshmallow goo. It was watching my brother-in-law make the perfect S'more.

God did such an amazing thing on the cross over 2000 years ago. The most amazing thing. Ever. And yet, who did He do it for? Us. A bunch of overstuffed, busy, simple earthlings covered in Easter grass and marshmallow goo. A bunch of have-nots.

I have not fame or riches. I have not the perfect body. I have not well-behaved kids who make life peaceful and calm. I have not the perfect church. I have not the prettiest yard. I have not the nicest house. I have not. I have not. I have not. As I reflected on the failed photo attempts of my children, I wondered, how often does God want to scream "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? WHY CAN'T YOU JUST SMILE?!" How often does He give me a good and perfect gift, and watch me complain about something else?

Yes, Lord, the sun is lovely, but the wind is too strong today.

Yes, Lord, the kids are happy, but do they have to be so loud?

Yes, Lord, Dan can still work, but does he have to work so much?

Yes, Lord, the kids are healthy, but they still can't clean up after themselves.

Yes, Lord, I asked to be used by You, but not in this way.

Complain, whine. Whine, complain. Worry about this. Fret about that. Have not. Try too hard to have it all. Anyone relate??

But, I do have it all! I have Christ, His salvation, my family, and a backyard campfire. My life as a have-not can be pretty good sometimes, if only I would keep my heart focused on Him. He just gave His life for me, and I am basking in that glow today.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The ultimate unfair

It's finally here! My kids have a bonafide three-day weekend that is not due to a blizzard!! Our winter was so brutal, with so many snow days, that every single holiday, day off, or break day, was taken from the school calendar so as to get all the learnin' in before the end of the school year. Sure, we had nice days of winter repreive thrown in, but all in all, this winter was hard, was challenging, and was seemingly hopeless. It has seemed a tad unfair, and there were many times we thought it would never end. It has been that long haul through this winter to today, a planned and anticipated day off, that makes this day seem so very wonderful. Aaahhh. We had waffles and bacon, the baritone is bellowing from the 12-year-old's bedroom, and a couple of kiddos are doing art. It is a good day.

It is also Good Friday, the day we mark in honor of Christ's crucifixion; the day our savior endured His death on the cross. For Christ, this day, too, was a much planned for and anticipated day. His entire ministry on earth led up to this day. Just as my children, their father, and I (and every neighbor in a 300-mile radius)endured a long haul through a difficult winter, so Jesus endured a long haul through a three-year earthly ministry that was full of trial, rejection, and heartache. Sure, He had many, many bright spots (many more so than our bleak desolate Nebraska winter), but Christ's ministry sets the prime example for us of enduring and perservering just because we love God that much.

While I realize it was not exactly 2,030-ish years ago at this moment, let's pretend briefly that it was. What was Jesus doing at this exact moment of this day? I think at this point He had been awake for over 28 or 30 hours straight, and had already been beaten boyond recognition. He had sat up all night, bleeding and oozing from His wounds, suffering in pain, mockery, and rejection. He had stood trial first thing in the morning, and was probably being prepared for the long march through Jerusalem with his own murder weapon on his shoulders. All for my sins. For the redemption of all of His Father's creation. It was a grim, ugly moment. Talk about perserverance.

And what does Christ ask me to do for Him??

Am I asked to suffer--really suffer--for my sins? And I murdered for my sins? Do I have to carry a cross, endure a beating, and publically bleed and suffocate to death for my mistakes??

All I am asked to do is believe. To trust. To love. To put my hope in Him rather than myself. That's small potatoes compared to what the Lord asked of Jesus. I am sooooo good at accusing God of asking me to live through situations I believe are "unfair". I can whine and complain with the best of them. But the ultimate "unfair" request in history was when God asked Jesus Christ to die for MY sins. Not His. Mine.


And yet He did...with love...all for ME. And YOU. The lyrics of a song by Scott Krippayne are burning in my brain right now. Read for me...

You never asked my to hold out my arms
No one put nails my hands
I'll never fell the weight of the world
Or carry a cross on my back
Nothing I do could ever replace
All that You did on that day...
You took my place up there on the tree
You gave Your life so that I could be free
You died for me, now I'm living for You,
Lord, that's the least I could do.

The very least I, Shelly, can do for Jesus, is live for him. Believe, trust, love.

Happy Good Friday, everyone. May Christ's sacrifice for YOU be a glorious hope!