Monday, August 23, 2010

Is the grass really greener? How much greener?

Ok so my daughter is full of insights and you know what they say, "kids say the darnest things", right?
Yeah, so as we are getting out of the car for the market, she tells me in a very slow, calm tone, "Mama, I want to go with strangers. I want the strangers to take me. They're not going to harm me. I just want to go with them so I can meet new people."
(you may think it's funny, but I don't see the humor)
I ask myself, "HOW OLD IS THIS GIRL?" And I'm reminded of why I was always fearful about having a girl.

And so I make my best attempt at rationalizing with her and explaining why that would never be a good idea. She can meet other people some other way. In safer ways, like with people she already knows. I know it doesn't make for a strong case, but I tried.

Meet new people....
Hmm... I wonder...
What would life be like?
If only....
Hmm, it sounds so much better.
Somewhere.... over there....

Isn't that what we all do?
Isn't it the truth? If we are honest, we realize that we are prone to wonder.

It's almost like it's a part of our human composure to always want more or something different. In essence, it's a like we are never satisfied. At least, not with what we have.
If only.... if I had, when I get, when, if....
Then I will be satisfied. I will be content. Right? WRONG! In fact, dead wrong.

Remember the time I shared about the big dilemma with decorating my son's room? Well, just this week, my son tells me he would like to have his sister's room instead.
Of course he would say that! We are prone to wonder....

That room looks better.
That house looks bigger.
That car looks newer.
That woman looks nicer.
That man looks stronger.
The neighbor's grass looks greener.

I recently welcomed new neighbors to our neighborhood. Nice couple. Nice looking kids. Nice looking cars. Nice looking grass. Really.... they are very adamant about maintaining their curb appeal. And it looks really nice.

When I was a little girl, I remember thinking and actually fantasizing about being my aunt's daughter. She didn't have any girls. Just a boy, and she spoiled him so. It was understandable for me to wonder, since I was the youngest of three, my parents were divorced, and we were living in a 5th floor apartment in Bronx NY. I'd close my eyes each night to the sight of a very dark bedroom ceiling. How could I not wonder?

Well, the truth is that even today that I'm all grown up living in a beautiful big home in the suburbs--- the grand view of the moon and stars put me to sleep at night, I still wonder.
But thankfully, in the midst of my wondering, I am abruptly reminded that I have all I need to be content. In fact, what I have is golden. I have God. You see I've been given free access to the secret of contentment.
I mean really, does green grass bring contentment? Does a strong man or a nice woman bring contentment? Do healthy children bring contentment? What about obedient ones? The first thought and response could be a quick "yes". These things do give us some kind of contentment or joy, right? But because it's part of our DNA to wonder, it won't be long before we are discontent even with our most prized husband or children or grass.

And so really, the only real truth about contentment and the only source of it, is found in knowing what Paul learned.
Philippians 4: 11b-13, "...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

Lord, allow our wondering to lead us to you. For it is in you that our wondering stops. Because it is in you that we find everything we could ever want or need. It is in you that we become everything we could only wonder about. And we find true and lasting contentment. Not because of anything we do but because of you who you are in us.

He is With You Always

So I'm driving to the supermarket when out of nowhere my little girl says, "Mama, I wish I had a penny to put into the fountain because I already have a wish to make." I don't pay much attention, but respond with a "hmmm..." And she comes back with, "I wish to be with God. I want to be with Him always."
Needless to say, I wasn't prepared for that one. (I wish she would warn me ahead of time when she's going to say such show-stopping words.)

She wants to be with God always. This is the same girl, who can go from being Ms. Supreme Sweetness Delight to Cruella, in a matter of seconds. (Have you ever witnessed a five year old girl's tantrum?) What's funny is that a few minutes prior to sharing how she wants to wish to be with God always, she had called out from the back seat, "Mama, I know everything about God. I know He loves me. And even when I do bad things, He still loves me."

I can understand why scriptures say.... "for theirs is the kingdom of God".
In essence, she has gotten the basics of salvation in her little mind and heart and can express it with her simple little words.
We should know (or believe) that God loves us and will love us (and forgive us) even when we do bad things. And we should want to be with Him always. (or accept Him as savior so that we may have eternal life with Him)

I have a friend who has been battling cancer for some time now. And recently, she has been very fragile. My first emotional response is to feel sad. However, knowing that the God, who my daughter talks about and claims she knows so well, is the same God my friend has known for quite some time now, gives me some sort of calming peace.
She knew Him when she was up and about living a very busy life like most of us do.
She knew Him, when she felt alone.
She witnessed Him, when others didn't believe.
And she knows Him even now, when it's hard.

And it gives me great joy to know that she knows God. But what's even better than all of that is the fact that He knows her. That He has known her always. That He saw her heart, he sought her out, made her whole, loved her, and has never left her side. What's more, He promises to be with her always.

And so I need to soon make my way to a fountain with my daughter so that she can actually make her wish. And I'll make another... for my friend... that God would remind her that He is with her always.

John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son so that whosoever believes shall not perish but have eternal life."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Today Was a Good Day

Today has been a good day. At least for me it has been.
I awoke to thoughts of God and His presence in my life. My chiropractor appointment went really well. I had the opportunity to chat for a few minutes with a good friend. And later another. That's always good.
I ate somewhat healthy. I spent time blogging.
All of these things put together bring a smile to my face.
Lastly and mostly, I received the awaited package in the mailbox that carried "my Mr. Bim".
Okay, I'm pretty sure I've lost you by now.
Allow me to explain. I don't usually like to date myself, but Mr. Bim was a childhood doll. A monkey in fact. Growing up I loved monkeys. I cried many tantrums asking my mom for a real life chimpanzee.
Well, I can't remember exactly how old I was, but I have a vague recollection of being fairly young and in an airport with my family waiting for our flight. In hand I had my Mr. Bim, (I only recently learned its rightful name) as another little girl admired my monkey doll. I remember letting her see it and then holding it tightly, when I heard my mom say something to the extent of "oh honey let her have it". And I reluctantly released my monkey to a girl whom I had never met before. (I'm pretty sure that was not a good day.)

Okay, so there is so much to grasp from this little scenario. I think I may have been traumatized by this little childhood event. In the one hand, my mom wanted to grant me the privilege of showing kindness to a complete stranger. And in the other hand, I learned that good things don't always last. (that will be a topic for another blog)
You see Mr. Bim was a comfort doll for me. My special traveling companion. And so as a little girl, I didn't see how giving up my best buddy to a complete stranger, was a good thing. Although my mother tried to make me see it that way.
Well, I guess now as an adult, I can see the moral behind it.
Giving my doll away could have made all of the difference to that little girl that day so many years ago. Maybe her day turned out to be a good one because of it. (I would hope so)

Til this day my mom continues to give away her belongings. If you compliment her on it, she will be most likely to give it to you.
I, on the other hand, hold great sentiment toward certain things. To the point that I can be possessive about things. Not wanting to share.

Just yesterday I heard my youngest complain when I told her to share her toy with her brother, "I don't like to share!"
And I kind of understand.
It's not always easy to give of yourself.
And to give things up for the benefit of someone else? That almost always seems difficult.
And yet God came to earth to give Himself up for us! For our benefit.

Moreover, the word of God reminds us, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; may the name of the Lord be praised." Job 1:22b
And Ecclesiastes 7: 14 says, "When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other."
When I think about it that way, it drives me to a very different perspective. You see God blesses us all. Good and/or bad. And sometimes I'm up, while other times I'm down. What may be a great day for me, could very well be someone else's worst. While I'm gaining, someone else may be losing. And while I am laughing with joy, someone else may be crying with grief. And in the same way, when I give, someone else is receiving.
God has His way of teaching us the important things in life. Have you ever stopped to think... that even something so common to us like daily sunlight--God sheds it on the good as well as on the bad.
In essence, it isn't up to me who should be blessed or who is most deserving. It is completely up to Him. I am still learning that we shouldn't hold our "things" with too strong a grip because we may need to quickly release them for the good of someone else.
And so when I'm having a bad day, I will be reminded that someone else may be having the best day of his/her life. And overall, in the big scheme of things, that is a good thing.

So yes today was a good day. I got "my Mr. Bim" back after all of these years. I had to make a bid on it through eBay. (husband says I better keep the receipt cause mom's gonna have to pay) It has a certain kind of smell that speaks volumes of both its age and mine, but whenever I look at it, it brings a smile to my face.
A good day. I hope yours was. Either way, may the name of the Lord be praised.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How Long Must We Wait?

"Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
We hear the phrase and quickly think of long road trips with impatient kids in the backseat. Mine play the "punch buggie" game to help make the ride enjoyable. Or they may ask for my infamous "Honk the Horn!" signal to truck drivers, as they approach our car. Music, games, bickering.....anything to make the ride seem shorter and more enduring.

And it literally does come down to enduring the ride.
For the younger ones, it seems harder to do. It requires patience that they have not yet developed. But then again, who has mastered patience, really?
That's when I call out, "just close your eyes, it's gonna be a long ride."

Some rides can be fun. Some are not as long. And yet some seem to last forever. You know the ones. Those are the ones when everything seems to be going wrong. (I can almost hear my son calling out, "I really have to go! I can't hold it anymore!") And then you hear either "pedal to the metal" or an abrupt brrrraaaaaake, as the door goes flying open for the kid to jump out and get some relief.

What's ironic is that we go through those kinds of rides in real life. At times we are barely moving through them... to the point that we even get stuck. (stuck in traffic... that's the worst!)
Stuck..... no movement....
(ever been stuck on a Ferris wheel?)

Well, I didn't want to get out of bed today. (let me quickly clarify) Not because I was stuck. Not because I was depressed or anything like that. But it was mostly because after reading through Bible passages I realized "I better be prepared to face life today". You see, who are we fooling?God didn't promise for fun-filled rides. Instead He promised us trouble.... bumpy roads.
But He also promised us Jesus.... (I love the word but) In fact, He gave us Jesus. And as a result, He promises....Joy. (I love the word and)

Okay so I got out of bed.
But it wasn't until I had spent a good two hours waiting on God to "hold my hand and begin to lead me through the day." I admitted, I couldn't do it without Him.
I admit, I'm scared on my own.
In fact, it's a scary world out here. And we grow impatient when we don't "see" Jesus.
(John 11:40, ..."Did I not tell you that if you believed, you wold see the glory of God?")

That is why I really appreciate the following verse, John 10:24, "The Jews gathered around Him, saying, How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."

In other words, how long must we wait? Or, are we there yet?
The Jews were feeling impatient and wanted some kind of confirmation from the living God.
You may think they were foolish, since they were looking right at Him! There was no suspense. What more could they want? In essence, their answer was right in front of their eyes. He was with them. However, if we're honest we can admit to being just like the Jews.

Yes we grow impatient when we don't understand His ways. And we wonder, "how long will He keep me in suspense?" How long will God allow for this turmoil in my life? How long will He seem distant? How long must I wait? For some sanity... for some healing... for some comfort.... for ..... (you fill in the blank)
How long? Those are our questions, as He looks right at us. As He stands by us. Stands right in front of us. Takes our hand. And leads us.

You see God is not sitting on His throne watching us "wait". He isn't standing back watching us endure long rides.
He is with us. (just like He was with me this morning helping me out of bed)

Lastly, you remember the story of Lazarus? (John 11) His sisters sent Jesus a message telling Him that Lazarus was sick. Jesus knew they needed Him to come and make Lazarus better. However, Jesus did not go to them right away. But in essence, He was there with them. You see Jesus knew that Lazarus would die and He knew the outcome of the crisis.
He brought Lazarus back to life.

When in trouble, confusion, hesitancy, fear, impatience..... know that you don't need to be "waiting" for Him. He is there.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Second to None

"So glad you're home son. So glad you're home."

You know, there's this stigma about being second. Nobody wants to be second. Second place is not as grand as first place. Second in line. Second to arrive. Second is just not..... first.
And for some reason people get to thinking that first equates to better.
I don't agree. And when it comes to parents and children, I think we can all agree that first, second, third.... they all... equate to better.
Allow me to explain.

I always found it a mystery to be able to love more than one child at a time. I'm still not sure how some people can have multiple numbers of children and still be able to love them all.
I have three kids. Two boys and a girl.
For a long time I was happy with just the two boys.
Actually for a long time, I was happy with just the first one.

Natural birth.
Beautiful baby boy.
For the most part, very content. (as long as the binky was nearby)
Very self-sufficient. (at least he tried to be)
Smart, funny, cute, and spoiled.
I couldn't fathom loving another.

And then came my second child. Another boy.
I was fine with that. (It was the thought of a girl that made me nervous.)
And well, I had five years of experience with my firstborn.
So another boy... how hard could it be?

Beautiful baby boy.
(Rewind..... C-section birth due to baby being breached)
Cried until he'd turn blue in the face gasping for air. (scared me half to death the first few times)
Would not even consider a binky for comfort.
Somewhat needy, and not ashamed to voice it.
Smart, loved to laugh, and absolutely adorable. (not spoiled)

And so there I was, a mother of two boys, completely in awe about how different they each was and how I would love them both intently and fervently in unique ways.

Hence, none of what I learned from the first truly applied to the second.
The corks that worked with the first, totally failed with the second.
And so as I get to know the second more and more, I realize I must love him differently.
Because he is different.

And while my first son taught me what it really means to give my life for someone else, my second son has taught me that there is more depth and width to the love I thought would only go so far.
He has challenged its dependability and longevity. He has stretched it and tested it. He has proven its validity.
I've had to reach deep inside myself in search of deeper love, greater love, true love. More love.

And so while for my firstborn, my love seem to come easily, it has been with my second son that the trueness of my love has really shown.

Consequently, I share all of this not because I want to compare one child from another, but because I feel it is important for each to know that he is loved.
And that neither is better than the other. Rather they each brings out in me an inner strength and passion I never knew I had until I had children.

Lastly, I share because at times the second child can get to thinking that he/she is not as grand as that first one. And I want to remind my own, that in my heart, he is second to none.

Five years after my second was born, I gave birth to a little girl. (Heaven help me now!)

Monday, August 2, 2010

I'm Right Where I need to Be

I'm finding that lately, I'm hearing of more and more prayer requests concerning people's health, their well-being, and other needs. We are truly concerned about our loved ones' needs, as well as our own. And we pray that God would take the concerns and needs away.

And it's understandable that when someone is down, we want to help make them feel better. I mean from the time we are just infants, at least for most of us; if we cried, we were comforted and made to feel better. And in the same manner, we grew up having our needs met some way or another. To the point that when our needs were not met instantly, we demanded it!

It makes me reflect a little on those who are living in distant and forsaken areas in our world. I know the needs of infants are the same everywhere, but I can only imagine that those needs are not met as easily in under developed lands.
And even so, we the "grand American fortunate" continually send out help to reach these areas in attempt to be helpful to those in greater needs.

And so when we are in need, people begin praying that things get better. It's only natural, right? We don't want our loved ones to suffer. We don't want our friends to hurt. We don't want our parents to grown needy.
I don't want my child to feel hurt.
I don't want my friend to have cancer.
I don't want my mother to be in pain.
What's more, I don't want to feel hurt. I don't want cancer, and I don't want pain!

I got my first mammogram done the other day. I got a call back from the radiologist that they will need to take more pictures (x rays). My appointment is tomorrow. Apparently, I should not be overly concerned, they just need to more views to make an accurate and precise evaluation. Okay, I can appreciate that. But I don't want another call back, thereafter. I don't want bad news! I don't want pain. I don't want suffering. I don't want hard times.

And while I whine (no I don't want cheese), but I realize I'm being a little selfish, and I can sense my pride. For God is in everything, isn't He? And He works everything out for the good of those who love Him, right? And there is a purpose in Him for everything...

2 Corinthians 1:8b-9 says, "...We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead."

"Okay God, I got it. You don't want me to rely on myself.
For what is there within me to rely on? Except for what is in you.
Because only you can bring healing. Only you can mend the hurt. Only you can make me whole...
I also understand that you don't have to meet my every need and demand when I feel you should. I understand that if I had all of my needs met at every moment of my life, I would probably turn my back on you. Because I would not feel the need for you. And so when I'm in need, I am exactly where I need to be."

Therefore, why should I live my life avoiding? Or at least thinking that I can avoid or should avoid the pressures it brings. You see, with pressure comes need; and when I'm in need, I find myself obligated to turn to Him. When I can't find the answers. When I'm totally confused. Consumed. When I'm overwhelmed with life's pressures. I turn to God. And guess what, God is there!
He's never out for a walk. He's never sleeping. He's never busy. He is there. And that's right where I need to be! In His presence. On my knees. At my last wit. In need... of Him. (think about it, it's not such a bad place to be)

Okay, so know that I am still praying for your needs to be met. But also know that if you are still in need, nevertheless, you are right where you need to be.

Your Life's Witness

A quote from the movie Shall We Dance?: "There's a billion people on the planet. I mean what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things. The bad things. The terrible things. The mundane things. All of it. All the time. Every day. You're saying, 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness'."

I was reminded of the movie and these words, as I read a new chapter of Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge.
I was inspired to write on the subject in honor of a very special couple I have had the privilege to know.
I will try to give you some background information as clearly but briefly as possible.
I met Carol and Bill about 8-9 years ago. In my eyes they resemble Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. To me, they are a most classy older couple. Funny, witty, quick, smart, good looking, charming. As a couple, they possess perfect chemistry. She picks up where he leaves off. He teases her to get a quick response. He puts his arm around her and opens up doors for her. She reaches over and touches his hand and softly pushes the hair away from his eyes. (Got to love it!) They are my idols....

Well, some time ago Carol gave me some "teaching" material to be used in my classroom. With this material, items such as daily calendars came along. So I have one that sits on my kitchen counter. It has the spiral binder affect that you can flip the page to a new one each day. It has the month and day (the year is not included, so you can reuse every year), and it also includes "meditations" for the day. I always look forward to flipping the page and reading the next "meditation".
However, lately I have noticed some additional writing on some of the pages. Mostly numbers. Numbers. This went unnoticed until recently when I began looking a little closer to read what these numbers represented. I found on the left side of the page was Carol's name and some numbers. On the right side was Bill's name and numbers. Numbers.
Here's an example:
Top left corner-Carol --- 155/109---P 60-----9 a.m.-----Top left corner-Bill--- 153/111--- P 67
Bottom left corner- 149/87---P 79-----9 p.m.-----Bottom right corner- 159/99--- P 70

Numbers? I finally got it! These numbers represent daily blood pressure readings. Morning and night.
Did I lose anyone?
They are recordings of Carol and Bill's blood pressure readings. Okay.... sounds mundane enough.
NO... not to me. To me, it is right out of a love story. This is what it's all about! Checking each other's blood pressure. Sharing each other's toothpaste. Waiting your turn for the bathroom. Sleeping in the same bed. Sharing a cup of coffee or maybe it's tea. Standing by when the other feels like debilitating. Standing close enough to reassure the other that he/she is not alone. Sitting in the same room, nothing being said. And yet feeling content. Having each other's presence speaks volumes loud and clear.
Someone is there for you. The same "someone" who was there 45 years ago. The someone who reminds you that your life has not gone unnoticed.
It is your life's witness.
This is what it's all about...
Happy Anniversary, friends!
"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up..." Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a

My sister's birthday I'm working on what to write on my sister's birthday card, as I try to figure how old she'll be this year.
I always calculate-- she's five years older than me--- so that makes her..... when in my multitasking, I receive an email with a special prayer request for a woman I don't really know but who is 45 years old and just found out she has cancer. She's got a husband and children.

Age is so tricky. Life's structure is tricky too. Sometimes everything looks and feels pretty sturdy and stable, and other times, everything is shaky and it all comes caving in.
My sister will be turning 44 this year.
She looks great for her age. She's always been the "chipper" of us too. Always looking at the bright side of things. Going with the flow. Takes everything at face value. Enjoys life. Doesn't question much....

Me...well I'm convinced there's always more to that "free handout". Nothing in life is free! Everything comes with a price. It's just hard to find the price tag many times.

Oh, but this isn't about me...
My sister and I have the kind of bond that so many women wish they had. My fondest memories of her are of our childhood. I guess because there was some turmoil in our childhood. But my sister was always there for me. She took the time to teach me right from wrong. She taught me how to read and write. When I was scared, she sang me lullabies. She comforted me. She cried with me. When no one else cared, she looked out for me. When I was angry at the world, she reached out to me in love. When friends were no longer around, she remained. She was a strong structure that helped hold me up in life.

And even now as adults... I've seen life's shaky and unstable times more than I would like to share....
She has too.
Relationships gone bad. Health scares. Losses. All of it brings us uncertainties in life. And age continues to creep up on us, although we wish we could turn back time.
And although I feel my life's structure is not always as sturdy and stable as I would like when hard times come my way, I can still say my sister is there.
She helps the structure of my life remain.

Oh, but this is not about me.

So on this birthday, I pray for my sister's health and well spirits to be steadfast. That she may never find a price tag on anything at all. That it may all come free. Like God's grace.
And if life's structure comes undone, that she may find the strength within to stand strong.

Lastly, I pray that the wife and mother who has received terrible news will be able to find the strength and structure in her life to hold her up today.

Ephesians 1:6 "to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves."