Monday, May 22, 2017

Cheerleading - My Other Job


Twenty-six years ago I gave birth to a bouncing, chubby baby boy.  I held him right after the delivery and he looked beautiful to me.  Yet, the doctors and nurses that crowded the room whisked him away within a minute or two of giving him to me and began to work over him.  That should have been my clue that his would be a life of challenge.

Often, I feel a bit embarrassed when I post a picture of Nathan on Facebook and talk about how proud I am of him.  I don't want people to think I'm bragging or be "one of those parents."  But there is a reason I do it.

When he was 3 1/2 he was diagnosed with apraxia, an articulation disorder.  He could not speak clearly and his vocabulary was only a few unrecognizable words.  The outcome for his speech was not good and I was told he'd probably never do well in a school-setting.

He was frightened of everything.  He didn't interact with others.  He was extremely clingy.  He had chronic asthma and bronchitis and was hooked up to a nebulizer much of his childhood because he would get over one bout of bronchitis and end up with another. 

He was diagnosed with short stature at the age of 14 and we were told he may get to 5'1" without the growth hormone shots as his body didn't produce enough growth hormone.  He had kidney issues.  He ended up with a bout of Lyme's disease that permanently caused his eye to droop.  He had multiple, severe learning disabilities and was finally diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum at a later age. 

What a lot for a young man to go through!  So for him to push through all of these challenges and keep moving forward with determination does bring pride to my heart. 

I homeschooled him because I felt that I could get him further than him just sitting in a special education class in the inner city we lived in at the time.  And when we finally did let him finish out his junior and senior year in public high school the teachers told us that they were not worried about him because he would go far because of the parents he had who kept pushing him forward.

New York State has Regent's examinations and even the kids in special education classes have to take them even though they aren't at grade level.  The teacher told me that she told the young men and women to just try and do the best they could and not worry about it.  My son, who reads at a 5th grade level and whose math skills are not much better, actually passed that regents! 

And when he came home and told me he was going to a fire meeting with a friend, I had no idea how far he would exceed and how much it would change his life.  It seems to be his calling. 

We went to an awards banquet on Friday night for the county EMS Awards in Excellence and Nathan received an award there.  I was so proud of him. 

So I will keep staying in his corner and rooting for him.  I will continue to push him even though at times he doesn't like it.  I will post some pictures from time to time and do some mama bragging even though I think people roll their eyes.  I'm very proud of the young man he is becoming and he could use a cheerleader in his corner because he still struggles with feeling discouraged about his struggles.

God has been faithful to him and to us all these years and for that, I am so grateful.





Friday, May 19, 2017

Permeating Aroma or Stench?



2 Corinthians 2:15-17 (NIV) ~

 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?  Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.

I have a lilac bush near my house and as I sit on the deck in the morning the sweet fragrance of its flowers wafts through the air.  Lilacs are my favorite flower and I love the scent.  Unfortunately, I cannot cut the stems and bring the fragrant flowers into my house, because my family and I will be hacking and wheezing and congested within minutes. Our allergies begin to act up.  So I have to be content to sniffing them in the wide open outdoors where their fragrance doesn't overpower my nose. 

Sometimes I feel like I overpower those around me who are not followers of Christ.  My faith is something they don't understand and I'm fairly certain my God-talk gets on their nerves.  However, my faith is a vital part of my life.  I believe without a doubt that God exists.  As a young teen, I realized my need of Him and made the decision to follow Him and His ways and there was never any turning back. 

When I think of all He has done for me, I cannot help but speak His name. It's like breathing for me. So for some my words and life may be a sweet aroma and for others, it may be a stench that irritates their senses.   

However, my desire is to live out my life as a Christ-follower.  That means the choices I make and the words I say and the attitudes I have need to reflect that.  I can't live with one foot in the world and one foot out of it. 

I think most of my friends who are not Christians have known me long enough to know that I do try and walk my talk.  I struggle just like we all do.  I mess up and blow it almost every day.  I am NOT perfect; not even close.  But because I am following the Lord, I do ask and receive forgiveness and am able to get back up and keep moving forward.  I'm transparent about it because I want people to know that it's Christ working in me that allows me to keep going.

And I try not to preach a sermon constantly.  I love the Lord and have faith in Him.  I do speak of Him because it flows naturally from me but I also know that nothing turns people off more than having someone constantly preach at them.  So my friends won't get a constant sermon from me.  But what they do get is honesty and yes, they will hear me speak about God because I believe He exists and works in me and that He can work in their struggles and concerns too. 

I hope my life is fragrant to those around me. My desire is to be a sweet aroma permeating the air and not a stench that causes people to wrinkle their noses. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Insignificant?







Small and insignificant.  That's how I often feel.  Yet, God often uses the small, insignificant and seemingly meaningless things in life to fulfill his purposes.  Look at how many tiny things there are in life that do huge tasks.

A single bee can pollinate hundreds of flowers in a day.  Tiny buds bring a scent that permeates the air.  Small leaves help us breathe. 

One person can make a difference to one other person and who knows how many people will be touched beyond that one other person. 

Zechariah 4:10 ~

For who scorns the day of small things? These seven eyes of the LORD, which scan throughout the whole earth, will rejoice when they see the plumb line in Zerubbabel's hand.

Zerubbabel was just one man and yet, God used him in a mighty way.  And He can use you too.  I want to encourage you today to rejoice in your insignificance.  Because the reality is you truly are not insignificant.  God loved you enough to send His son to die for you.  He uses you where you are and no matter what station you find yourself in.

Allow God to use you today. 

"To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world."

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday Words of Encouragement


Bargaining chips.  We all have them and we all use them.  We even go so far as to try and use them with God.  "Lord, you know that I've committed my life to serve you, so could you just....."  "God, I go to church every week so if you could just do...."  "Lord, if only you would do answer my prayer, then I will...."

You can fill in the blank with what ever chip you think you have.  But the reality is that God knows our hearts and he knows our motives.

Zechariah 7:1-7 (HCSB) ~

In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, which is Chislev. Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer, Regem-melech, and their men to plead for the Lord’s favor  by asking the priests who were at the house of the Lord of Hosts as well as the prophets, “Should we mourn and fast in the fifth month as we have done these many years?”

Then the word of the Lord of Hosts came to me:  “Ask all the people of the land and the priests: When you fasted and lamented in the fifth and in the seventh months for these 70 years, did you really fast for Me? When you eat and drink, don’t you eat and drink simply for yourselves? Aren’t these the words that the Lord proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem was inhabited and secure, along with its surrounding cities, and when the southern region and the Judean foothills were inhabited?”

The people asked the priests if God wanted them to fast as they had been doing.  It was a subtle, or not so subtle, reminder to God that they had been faithfully fasting 4 times a year for 70 years.  And yet, God knew their motives.  He knew that they were not doing anything for the Lord, but to look righteous in their own eyes.

So many times I can think that God should grant me favor because I've sacrificed all these years to serve Him in ministry, and yet, God looks at my heart motives.  Am I truly serving the Lord or serving myself?

I want to encourage you today to look at the things you do for the Lord and evaluate whether they truly are for Him or to gain some bargaining chips.  Why do you come to church?  Why do you have devotions?  Why do you do a particular ministry? 

Often, our motives can start out the right way and then deviate from their original intent.  Let's make sure we all we do for the Lord is truly for Him.  Any bargaining chips I try and cash in are absolutely useless because God is looking straight into my heart and can see the true condition of it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Great Are You, Lord!




 


Yesterday was such a beautiful day which involved a number of activities.  I worked on an upcoming leadership retreat as I soaked up some vitamin D.   I cleaned my bathrooms.  I did laundry.  I made chunky black bean chili.  I walked a mile and a half through the woods. 

All such different activities, but ones which brought me contentment.  I'm content because I truly have seen God's hand on my life the past three months.  I've seen rapid healing in my leg.  I've gotten clarity over what I should be doing.  I'm content that all three children are home at the moment and I'm enjoying each moment with them.  I'm trying my best to live simply and within our means and that brings satisfaction. 

Life is full of ebb and flow, but I'm assured that no matter which part of it I'm in, God is walking beside me.  That is such wonderful knowledge.  His breath in my lungs makes it all worthwhile. Great are You, Lord!







Monday, May 15, 2017

Comparisons

We sat at dinner one night a couple of weeks ago and as I lamented about some way our family was lacking (yes, I know terrible dinner conversation), Stephen looked straight at me and said, "What about our family are you thankful for?"  OUCH!!!

Yes, I repented and asked forgiveness as I realized how often I complain and criticize instead of being thankful for the good qualities that my husband and children have.  And much of the time, the only reason I feel they are lacking is that I am comparing them to someone else.

I look at my husband's lack of polish and think, "Wow!"  "I wish he was more like this person." "He would get so much further if he was different."

I read on Facebook about someone's child doing something fabulous or graduating at the head of their class and think, "Why aren't my kid's superstars?"  "Why do they seem to be so passive?"

I see someone's perfect looking home and think, "We'll never have that because we are in ministry." 

Comparisons are terrible because they cause dissatisfaction.  They make us look at our own lives, relationships and material possessions and feel as if they are lacking.  As I compare my family to Jane's I start to fixate on what is wrong with my family instead of seeing all the things that are right with it.  And that is a terrible place to be.

I love my husband and children.  They have many wonderful and unique gifts and qualities and I never want them to feel as if I think they are lacking.  But that's only going to happen when I stop comparing myself and them to others. 

I am so very thankful for my life and my family.  God has placed me where I am and in the family I belong to and for that I want to give Him praise today.  And that is why I'm going to continue to count my blessings each week.

This week I'm thankful for blessings #3001 - 3010.

3001. Stephen finally heard back from the camp he applied to work at this summer and has the job.

3002.  Nathan received a call back from a job he applied to.  He likes where he is but is really looking for something more stable and career-oriented.

3003.  I got the clearance to remove my brace and resume normal activities with caution.

3004. A fun day out with Emily.


3005. A friend who let me spend the night at her house and then drove the 4 1/2 hours  (round trip) to a speaking engagement I had on Saturday.  I still have difficulty keeping my knee bent for long periods so she was willing to drive.

(Side note: every picture someone takes of me when I'm talking turns out with me having some sort of weird expression on my face! lol)

3006.  A fun dinner out with friends.

3007.  Coming home on Saturday night with a table set for Mother's Day lunch the next day. It was one of the sweetest gifts I received because they had words scattered across the table on hearts.  The words were characteristics they love about me.



3008.  A wonderful lunch prepared by Emily on Mother's Day.

3009.  Getting outside and enjoy the warm sunshine.



and finally...

3010.  Being thankful for all my many blessings.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Frugal Friday


I was thinking about my life the other day and the examples I had growing up which have led to some of my ideas about living frugally.  For a time after my parent separated, we lived with our pastor and his family.  They took us in to help us out financially.

I do remember homemade meals, gardening, cutting wood and learning what it looks like to use it up, wear it out, make it do and do without from this dear family.  They were industrious and had learned to trust God for many of their needs as a family in ministry. 

Throughout the years, we have had different examples of families who were content with simple living.  When I think back on these different families, the words that come to mind are content, joyful, generous and peaceful. 

As I puttered around the kitchen the other day, trying to use up some ingredients in a dish, I too felt content.  As I've learned to enjoy living simply and taking pleasure in the small things, I feel peaceful.

This week I've saved by doing the following:

$ Emily needed a dress for her senior dinner dance in a few weeks.  After hitting some thrift shops and finding nothing, I reluctantly went to the mall thinking it was certainly going to cost more than anticipated.  However, due to the fact that one of the stores is going out of business, we were able to get her dress at 50% off.  So a $70 dress cost $35. 

$ A neighbor brought over 15 bagels from a huge bag they had.  Since we aren't going to use them all at once, I put some in the freezer.  Free is always good. ;-)

$ A friend from church brings us eggs every few weeks.

$ I used Vista Print to design and order Emily's graduation announcements/party invites.  It was much cheaper than using the school's company.

$ Dan and I went on a date.  We stopped and bought tea to go and then went and sat by the lake and chatted.  Inexpensive and yet, it was time connecting.

$ I was out of the house all day yesterday and when late afternoon rolled around I was in the middle of Walmart thinking, "What in the world are we going to eat for dinner?"  I thought about ordering take-out (expensive) or purchasing a frozen something or other (unhealthy).  Instead for $13 I pulled together a meal that took me 20 minutes to make.  Steak and provolone sandwiches on store bought rolls with caramelized onions, mushrooms and tomatoes and steamed broccoli.  Much better for us and inexpensive compared to the other options.

$ As gardening time rolls around, I've decided once again to not plant.  I'm HORRIBLE at it.  The amount of money and time and failure that happens each year makes it not a frugal option for me.  So once again, I'll be heading to the regional market to get my fruits and vegetables.  Because I know my prices, I can bargain shop.  Yet, I'm getting fresh and local grown fruits and veggies to can.  I did this last year and it was such a better option for me.

Most of the ways I save money tend to be through the kitchen because that is the one expense I can control.  Because I stay out of the stores and very rarely buy anything else, it keeps our costs low. 

It's work, but fun!  How have you done this week?