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I’m just going to say it.  I don’t believe Jesus was born on Christmas day.  (Gasp!)  It’s true, and what’s more is that I don’t believe we even have to celebrate Christmas. (Put your torches and pitch forks down.  Let me finish.)

The Bible does not tell us when Jesus was born.  I’ve heard conflicting information about when it probably really happened, and I don’t know what the truth is.  What I do know is that if the actual date mattered, God would have told us.  The word ‘Christmas’ is not mentioned in the Bible.  There is no commandment to celebrate Christ’s birth.  It’s okay if you choose not to celebrate.

Now, having said that, let me finish.  (Tell the angry mob to hush so you can hear what I have to say.)  I believe that we should be celebrating Jesus every day of the year.  I think Christmas is great because it’s a time of year when people are talking about Christ.  You hear Jesus’ name in songs in stores.  That does not happen except September through December (the retail Christmas season).  How awesome is it that people are nicer and more generous at Christmas?  Why can’t they be that way every day of the year?

That’s why I’m calling for a Christmas Revolution!  Will you join me?  Here is what I am suggesting; instead of celebrating Jesus once a year, let’s celebrate Him every day.  How can we celebrate Him?  I think we can do it by giving the world some of what Jesus gave to us.  We can never be as great as Jesus.  After all, He was perfect.  We are human, so we will mess up and do stupid things.  However, if we work day to day to be more like Jesus, we can make great changes in our world.  Here are a few things I will do in my Christmas Revolution:

Jesus gave me grace, so I will give grace to others.  This is a tough one.  I know there are people in your life that you haven’t forgiven.  We all have them.  I have them too, although I am trying day by day to forgive.  You might be holding onto something big like abuse from your parent or harm that someone caused your child.  You could be holding onto something silly like being cut off in traffic or having a gift card stolen from your mailbox.  Either way, it’s time to forgive.  The Bible says in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking that the person you need to forgive doesn’t deserve it.  He or she hasn’t asked for your forgiveness and hasn’t done anything to make it better.  Well, I say, you didn’t deserve the forgiveness through Christ either, but if you believed and obeyed, He forgave you.  Pay it forward.  Forgive someone else.

Jesus prayed for me, so I will pray for others.  Did you know that Jesus prayed for you?  Read John 17, starting with verse 20.  That’s about you, and it’s about me.  Jesus prayed for us.  We should pray for others.  The second part of James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  If you believe, you can help others just by praying for them.

Jesus gave me mercy to me, so I will give mercy to others.  Another word for mercy is compassion.  Jesus was compassionate to many.  In John 8, we read about a woman who was caught up in adultery.  Jesus could have embarrassed her.  He could have given her a good tongue-lashing right there in front of everyone.  After all, she deserved it.  She was not following the law, and she was sinning.  Instead, Jesus gently told her in verse 11 to go and sin no more after reminding her accusers that they weren’t perfect either.  When I see situations where people are obviously doing wrong, I can either get up on my high horse and condemn them, or I can remember that I am a sinner too.  I can treat them as humans and show them compassion.  I choose mercy, because I want mercy.  There have been times in my life when I chose to sit on my high horse, and I found that I got knocked off the horse pretty quickly.  I regret those times.  I have no right to judge or condemn others.  Instead, I will show them love and mercy as that is what Christ would have done.

Jesus gave me blessings, so I will bless others.  God has given me everything.  He gave me my very next breath.  See…(Sigh)….He gave me that.  I can’t give others breath, but I can give them other things.  God gave me everything so who am I to keep it from other people?  It’s not mine anyway!  I may not always be able to give a million dollars to someone, but I can give what I can give.  (That was very profound wasn’t it?)  Luke 6:30 says, “Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.”  Use the discernment that God gave you.  Don’t be scammed, but give, give, give.  And if you do get scammed, just know that you did your part and God will take care of the scammer.

Jesus gave me peace, so I will give peace to others.  I have a peace through Christ.  It’s called the “Peace that Passes Understanding,” and Paul talks about it in Philippians 4:7.  If you have it, you know what I’m talking about.  If you don’t, you think I’m crazy.  (Okay, you might think I’m crazy anyway.)  We can’t give that kind of peace to others, but we can work to make peace.  We can choose to “stir the pot” and cause trouble, or we can choose to be at peace as much as possible.  A very wise man told me once that it takes two people to argue.  If you will just shut up, the argument is over.  It’s true!  Try it!  You’ll see amazing results.  Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  You can only do what you can do, but do your part.

So, that’s it.  This is the Christmas Revolution that is sweeping the nation. (Or the three people who read my blog.)  Will you join me?  If we brought a little Christmas to every day, we could change the world!  You can even rock that ugly Christmas sweater all year long if it will help you get in the spirit of things!   -Al



 
 
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It had been standing there since April 14 as a painful reminder.  The burned out garage that used to house our business grew uglier and uglier as the months went by.  Sometimes, we would drive by it and sigh.  Other times, we would drive by it and laugh about the changing colors of the burned materials.  No matter what the mood, we always looked.  Every time we drove up the driveway, we looked.  We couldn’t help ourselves.  We had to look.

Today, however, it is gone.  It got torn down this afternoon.  Our constant reminder of a time of turmoil in our lives is gone.  Just like that, it’s gone.  I wonder how long it will take us to stop looking every time we drive by the place where the garage was.  When will grass start to grow there again?  How long will it take for wildflowers to bloom?  When will it happen that no one even thinks about the fire that happened that night?  It probably won’t take long. 

As I thought about the disappearance of the garage today, I realized that this is how life works.  Time heals everything.  It really does.  Something that is so painful eventually goes away, and before you realize it, the pain has disappeared and wildflowers and grass are growing in your heart in the place where the hurt was. 

At first, you think you might die from the pain.   Then, you continue to look back at the pain.  Sometimes, you can face it with a sense of humor.  Other times, you sigh sadly or even tear up.  Then, one day, you wake up and the source of pain has disappeared.  While you might remember it from time to time, it isn’t something you focus on.  Eventually, the wildflowers and grass cover the hurt.

Some of you are hurting right now.  I know it.  I know some of your hurts, but not all of them.  Just know that your hurt will pass.  Soon, you’ll forget, even if for a few minutes, to think about the hurt.  As the days go by, you focus less and less on the burned out garage in your soul.  Then, one day, you’ll drive past that place in your mind and realize the pain is gone, and before you know it, there will be grass and wildflowers where the pain once lived.  I wish you wildflowers soon, but for now, hang on and know that the day is coming.     -Al



 
 
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Anyone who has ever flown has been through the safety procedures presentation at the beginning of a flight.  The attendant always says if you are traveling with someone who requires assistance, you should put the air mask on yourself first before assisting the small child or disabled or elderly person you are traveling with.  I used to always think that was mean.  It just seemed so selfish to me that I would take care of myself first.  I could not imagine saying, “You just sit there without air while I put this mask on myself.”

However, the longer I have been a wife and mother, the more I understand the reasoning behind the instructions.  In the case of the plane, if you are helping someone else first, you will run out of air before you can get your own mask on. If you pass out, who is going to help you, since you are traveling with someone who is helpless?  However, if you give yourself oxygen first, you can then help the person beside you, and you can do it more effectively than if you were gasping for air.

I have found that the same thing is true in life.  Motherhood and life in general just have a way of smothering you.  People always need something.  The kids need to be fed.  They need to know where their shoes are.  They need help with their homework.  They need to be taken to soccer practice.  They need help with a science project.  The phone rings, and it’s for you, of course.  The PTA needs you to volunteer.  The bake sale needs delicious, homemade baked goods.  The coach needs you to be the team mom.  Your husband needs his clothes picked up from the dry cleaners.  Your mother needs you to take her shopping.  Your sister needs you to keep her kids.  Your neighbor needs to borrow a cup of sugar.  Do you have a headache yet, or should I keep going?

The people around you are sucking the life out of you.  They are like little vampires, and they all want a piece of your soul.  As much as you love them and you want to take care of them, if you take care of them first, you are going to run out of life.  As women, we have to take a moment to take care of ourselves first so we can be of better service to others. 

We’ve been conditioned to think this is wrong.  We are supposed to happily serve everyone around us and have a merry countenance and a cheerful disposition.  We are never supposed to have a break down or a melt down or a sit down.  We are supposed to tirelessly serve others because we are Mom with a capital ‘M.’

I am hereby giving you permission to be selfish.  You can’t do it all the time, or you will become one of those mothers…you know the ones who walk around all dolled up with a brand new pedicure while their kids are bare foot and snot-nosed.  Don’t become them, but do take a small lesson from them.  It is okay to take care of you.  It is okay to say, “I will help you, but first I am going to….” (You fill in the blank.)  It is okay to have time just to remember who you were before you had kids and a husband.

Here are some simple ways you can take care of yourself first, so you can better serve those around you:

Read a book.  Remember those?  They are made of paper, and they have words and no pictures.  They can tell you a magical story and take you to a wonderful place away from your laundry room!  Even if you only allow yourself 15 minutes a day to read just for the fun of reading, this can serve as a great escape.

Get a pedicure.  I don’t mean letting your 5 year old paint your toenails.  I mean a real, live pedicure with real people serving you.  If you don’t have anyone to watch your kids, look around for another mother with a wild look in her eyes.  Offer to trade off, so she can go away for an hour and so can you.  (You might want to meet her kids before offering that.)

Call a friend.  When is the last time you talked to a friend?  Not texted or emailed.  Talked.  Call her.  You’ll be glad you did.

Write something.  I have found that writing this blog is extremely therapeutic. (Y’all may need therapy after reading my ramblings, but at least I feel better!)  Write a letter.  Write a story.  Write an article.  Just write.  If you write something good, let me know.  I’ll post it on my blog with you as my guest author!

Take a nap.  When the kids are napping, or if your kids are at school, allow yourself a 30 minute nap.  Now, you can’t do that everyday and you can’t sleep all day, or it quickly becomes depression.  However, an occasional power nap will do you good!

Take a bubble bath.  Light some candles, turn on soft music (or loud to drown out the sound of the kids) and take a bath.  Soak away your troubles…it does wonders for your soul.  If you combine that with reading a book, it will be sheer bliss!

There are many quick and easy things you can do to take care of you.  What might be relaxing to one person might be torture to another.  That’s the beauty of taking care of yourself; you know what you like!

If you need to, write “ME” on your calendar and block off a little time for yourself.  You and your loved ones will be glad you did.  There’s an old saying that, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”   There is much truth in that, so make sure you give yourself time to be happy.    -Al


 
 
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Galatians 6:9 says, “So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up.”  I used to read that verse and think, “How could I ever get tired of doing good?  I love helping others and changing the world!”  Notice, I said, “Used to.”

There are some of you who are reading this and thinking the same thing.  How could you ever get tired of doing good?  Why would you want to do anything but good?  To you I say, “Bless your little heart.  Just you wait.”

I was young once.  I mean, I’m not old now, but I’m certainly not young.  I’ve got the gray hairs and wrinkles to prove it.  (I also have a teen and a tween reminding me constantly that I’m old.  I’m beginning to believe them.)  I used to love doing for others.  I baked cakes.  I wrote cards.  I visited people in the hospital.  I threw baby showers for them.  I kept their children.  I arranged play days and moms’ teas and Easter egg hunts.  I did all that, and I did it with joy.  Then, life happened. 

Now, I’m doing good just to take care of my own.  I don’t have time to bake a cake.  (Isn’t that what God gave us Publix for?)  I wrote a few cards to people about three months ago, and it took me a month to actually get them in the mail.  I barely make it to the baby showers now; forget planning them!  My children are lucky to get an Easter basket, and I certainly can’t manage to plan a hunt for anyone else.

What happened?  Well, honestly, I wonder that myself.  Life seemed to just speed up and take over.  What I do know is that it is much harder to do good now.  I just don’t have the time, and I’m tired.  Really tired.  Like, if I sit still, I fall into a coma, tired.  Now I get it.  I know why we are warned not to grow weary.  It is easy to do so, especially during times of struggle and times of busyness.

There are seasons of life, and we are all in different seasons.  I believe that some seasons are meant for you to do good and other seasons are meant for you to reap the benefits of the good you did.  What do I mean by that?  Well, I’ll try to explain.

As I told you, when I was a younger mother, I baked cakes, cooked meals and helped others in various ways.  I visited, I prayed, I wrote and I served.  I did not grow weary in doing good.  In fact, I thrived on doing good, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

As things in life changed, I grew tired and weary; not necessarily weary of doing good…just weary.  There were circumstances in my life that did not allow me to bake and cook and help and serve.  I still really wanted to, but there just wasn’t time or money for that.  We had several years of one disaster after another.  (Not horrible disasters.  Many people have it much worse than we do.  However, life got difficult.)  Instead of me helping others, people began to help and serve me.  It was very humbling.  When I would say to people that I was humbled (and embarrassed) by their help, over and over, people would say, “You deserve it.”  I did not feel that I did, and I still don’t know that “deserve” is the right word.  I deserve nothing (and neither do you).  We are all blessed by God.

Several times, as people were helping me, they would say, “Remember when you helped me clean my house?”  “Remember when you brought that meal to me after my surgery?” “Remember when you hosted that baby shower for my daughter?”  Honestly, I did not remember most of the things people told me.  I wasn’t keeping score.  I never expected “pay back,” so I did not remember what I did.  The verse says, “At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up.”  I believe, in one way, I have reaped a harvest of blessing because of the good I did. 

I am not saying this to glorify myself.  I am not great, and there are many, many people who have done much more than I could ever dream of.  I am saying that to tell you this:  As much as you are able to do good, do it.  If you have time, use it to do good.  If you have money, use it to help others.  There will be a time in your life when you are not able and you do not have time or money.  Chances are, whether you do good now or not, someone will take care of you.  They will do good, even if you never did.  However, why not “bank” some good now?  That’s better than any retirement plan you can invest in!  By doing good for others, you are planting seeds that you may one day need to harvest.  You may need others to take care of you, do for you and bless you.  Why not take care of others, do for others and bless others now?

The bigger picture of this verse is heaven.  If we do not get tired of doing good now, think of our reward in heaven!  I want to be there, and I want to hear God say, “Well done.  Alison.” (He probably won’t call me “Al.”)  I want to hear Him say, “You did well with what I gave you.”  Don’t you want to hear Him say that too?  Don’t give up now!  If you are struggling, yours is just a little struggle in the grand scheme of things.  Keep on doing good, and your reward will be great!

If you are in a season of life where you have no good to give, receive the good that others are blessing you with.  Thank them and praise God!  Make sure you aren’t sitting around feeling sorry for yourself.  A pity party is a party of one, and that’s no fun!  Do not grow weary of doing good.  As soon as you are able, get to work doing good!  Even if it is something small, it will make you feel better.  I promise, and better yet, God promises.            -Al


 
 
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Many of my friends have spent the last 19 days of November posting on Facebook things they were thankful for.  I think this is great.  I tried it last year, and it quickly became a source of guilt, like so many other things in my life!  (That's also why I can't scrapbook....too much guilt when I don't get it done.)  I couldn't keep up with a daily list.  It wasn't that I wasn't thankful everyday.  It was that I didn't have time to post, or I was living my life instead of living on Facebook.  I've noticed a trend this year of people saying things like, "I'm 2 days behind, but I'm thankful for..."  To that, I say, "Good for you!"  Great job of giving yourself a break and not stressing out if you didn't keep the self imposed "rules" of thankfulness posting.

Today, I want to give some things that I am thankful for.  Of course I'm thankful for the "normal" things....my family (well, they aren't really normal, but you know what I mean), my health, my house, my car, chocolate, deodorant, etc., etc., etc.  There are other things that I am thankful for that I would probably never put on that list of blessings.  I started thinking about this yesterday after I heard a sermon about being thankful for your circumstances.  No matter what you are going through, be thankful for it, because you never know where it is leading you.  We've had MANY circumstances to choose from in the last several years.  (God must really trust us.)  Here are some that were blessings in disguise:

- I am thankful that we had to leave our house.  At the end of 2007, we could no longer afford our house, so we made the very hard decision to give it back to the bank. (Well, we tried.  It's 5 years later, and the house is still in our name.  Different story.)  At the time, it was heart breaking, and I mourned my house for a long time.  (I still can't go in the Goose's nursery without tearing up.)  This was the first home we lived in as a family, and it was a house we intended to stay in until we died.  Having said that, I can now say I am thankful for being forced to leave it because it made us free.  We are not tied to a physical dwelling, and we can go where ever we are led.  It awakened a "gypsy" spirit in me, and I am ready to go whenever I am told to.

- I am thankful for an ugggg-ly  falling out I had with someone who was close to us.  (Did I mention it was ugly?)  I could probably safely mention her name here, because I'm pretty sure she would never read anything I had to say.  She still doesn't speak to me, and I'm confident that she would not want to read my writings either.  It was not pleasant, and it was not something I would want to repeat.  It did, however, cause me to toughen up and stop wearing my feelings on my sleeve. (Well, they are still there, but I just pad them a little better.)  That was the first real falling out I had ever had with anyone, and it prepared me for worse things to come.  I have fought some battles since then that I could have never survived if I had not been put through that first.

- I am thankful that our pottery business closed down.  Especially now, at Christmas, the most unpleasant retail time of the year, I can say that I am so happy not to own a store!  At the time we closed, it was heart breaking because we had worked so hard to get the business going.  However, I have not spent one minute missing it, and I am thankful that we are not stressing out and worrying about our declining sales.  I miss some of my customers, but I am very thankful not to be dealing with some others.

- I am thankful that we have no stocks and bonds.  We have no investments, and we have no savings.  We have absolutely nothing to lose, so there are no worries!  Oh, the stock market plummeted today?  Sorry for your luck.  Come join my club.

- I am thankful for our second pottery business burning down this year.  That's a weird thing to be thankful for, but it's true.  I'm still not completely sure what the purpose of that was, but I do know there was a purpose.  I can already see some good things coming from it, and I know more will come.

No matter what your circumstances are right now, stop and give thanks.  You really never know how God will use your circumstances in life.  It always amazes me to see how things come out in the end.  His plan is much better than ours could ever be.  A favorite verse of mine is Jeremiah 29:11.  "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"

Many times when I am talking to someone who is hurting,  I tell them that a year from now, this will all be a memory.  That thought is actually how I have dealt with a lot of hurts in my life.  It's so cliché, but time really does heal.  When I am panicked and wondering how I am going to survive the next hour, I try to step back and remember that this too shall pass.  My dear friend, A* (names changed to protect the innocent), says that her favorite words in the Bible are, "And it came to pass....."  I hope your circumstances come to pass soon.  Philippians 4:11-13  "I am not saying this because I am in need, 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 all this through him who gives me strength."   

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.  Remember to stop and count your blessings!
 -Al

 
 
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While spending several days in Las Vegas, I realized something.  I guess this was no great shock, but I realized it again.  Las Vegas is a very wicked city.  There are a lot of ways to get yourself in trouble there.  There are a lot of people doing things they should not be doing!  Las Vegas is also a great city.  There are a lot of ways to have fun there!  That is the brightest city I have ever seen, and there is something to look at no matter where you look!

My point?  Las Vegas is what you make of it.  You can choose to see the half-naked women and the billboards with just-about-pornography on them.  You can choose to see the people who are partying too hard and gambling too much.  You can choose to see the alcohol and probably drugs that you can find at every turn.  You can also choose to see the glitz and glitter and fun.  You can see the bright lights.  You can even see Elvis if you pay attention!  Las Vegas is what you make of it.  It can be a family-friendly place where you can have fun seeing shows and riding roller coasters.  It can also be a dreadful place where you wouldn’t dream of taking your family.  Either way, you are right.  It’s all in what you see.

Isn’t that just like life?  It’s all in what you see.  Whether you think you are cursed or blessed, you are right!  Allow me to tell you a story….

Susan woke up at 6:15 because her alarm did not go off at 5:45 like it was supposed to.  She rushed around, got the girls up and fixed her cup of coffee.  She spilled the coffee on the white shirt she had planned on wearing, so she changed into a blue shirt.  Her daughters wouldn’t get off the couch to get ready for school, so she had to sit by them and fix their hair as they sat in a stupor.  Finally, she got them out the door and dropped them off at school.  Molly forgot to kiss her goodbye but turned and blew her mom a kiss just before she went inside.  Susan blew a kiss back and drove toward work.  There was a terrible accident on the way, so her chance of being somewhat on time went right out the window.  By the time she got to work, she was fifteen minutes late.  She had just sat down at her desk when her friend Tina came by.  “How was your morning?” Tina asked.

So, how did Susan answer her?  It could have gone two ways….

“Well, girl.  Let me tell you.  My stupid alarm didn’t go off this morning, and I woke up late.  The girls wouldn’t get going and I had to prod them along.  I thought I was going to have to give Molly a cup of coffee to get her going!  Last time I did that, her kindergarten teacher said that was not a good idea, but I just don’t know what else to do!  I spilled coffee on my shirt and had to change to this one.  That shirt is probably ruined now.  When I got the girls to school, Molly didn’t even kiss me goodbye.  Seriously.  After all I do for her, and she can’t even stop and kiss me?  Then, when I left, I had to sit in traffic FOR-ever!  There was this terrible accident, and I thought they’d never get that woman into the ambulance.  I mean, didn’t they know people had to get to work?  I was fifteen minutes late to work, and I just know the rest of my day is going to run late now!”

-OR-

“Oh, honey.  Let me tell you!  My alarm didn’t go off, but luckily, the neighbor’s dog woke me up.  The girls had a hard time getting started, but it gave me a little extra cuddle time on the couch as I fixed their hair.  I just love the smell of my babies in the morning!  I spilled coffee on my shirt, so I had to change.  Do you know I’ve had 3 compliments on this shirt already?  Thanks to the coffee, I am looking fabulous!  When I dropped Molly off, the poor thing was so busy rushing that she didn’t even kiss me, but she remembered to look back and blow me a kiss.  That just touched my heart!  She is such a sweet baby!  There was a terrible accident on my way here.  I am so thankful my alarm did not go off on time, or I could have been in that accident.  I just pray that the lady who left in the ambulance is okay, and I am so thankful for those paramedics being there to help her!  I was only fifteen minutes late even though the accident was so serious.  Today is going to be great.  I have already been so blessed!”

It’s all in what you see.  What are you seeing today?  Are you focusing on the good or focusing on the bad?  Today, I’m going to choose to focus on the good.  Viva Las Vegas!   -Al



 
 
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As I sit here on a plane on my way to a conference in Las Vegas, I realize that I am a control freak.  I know, I know….not a real shocker there.  I like to be in control.  I like for my life to go exactly as I plan it.  I like for my kids to behave exactly as I expect them to.  (Okay, that rarely happens, but a girl can dream, right?)

The reason I had this great enlightenment is because I currently am not in control, and I really don’t like that very much!  I don’t know if the pilot passed his college exams with an A+ or a C-.  I don’t know whether he attended Harvard University or Crash and Burn College.  I don’t know whether he had a good, wholesome breakfast or if he ate a candy bar on the way to the airport.  I don’t know if he is currently sitting with his feet propped up while reading the newspaper or if he is taking a nap. (I really hope neither of those is true!)  I don’t even know the pilot’s name!  He is nameless to me because I couldn’t understand his garbled message.  (By the way, why is that?  Why can’t you ever understand the pilot on a plane?  They sound as though they are underwater or talking through a fan!)

This lack of control made me realize that really, in essence, my life is one big plane ride.  There is plenty of turbulence, and there is a lot of unknown.  Most of the time, I wonder what in the world God is thinking. (But I am pretty convinced that He has a sense of humor.  Unfortunately, sometimes, I feel like I am the butt of the joke.)

A lot of times, I approach God like this: “Um.  Hi, God.  It’s me, Al.  I have this problem, and here is how I think you should fix it.  In fact, I have several great suggestions of how you can solve it.  Feel free to choose the option you think is best.  After all, you are God, so I will give you the option of which of my solutions you would like to choose.”

The funny thing is, God almost never takes my suggestions!  He solves the problem, in His own way and on His own time.  Usually, He lets me dangle over the edge of the cliff, and then, just as my rope is about to snap in half, he yanks me back.  He uses a solution that I would have never considered to solve my problem.

I don’t claim to know why God does what God does.  He is God, and I am not.  However, sometimes, I think he gives me a little “Dangle Therapy” to remind me that I am not in control.  I never was, and I never will be.

God was clear in the Bible about the fact that He is God and we are not.  Read Psalm 46:10.  It says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  I heard it taught once that those words, “Be still,” can also be translated, “Cease striving.”  That means, let it go.  Let God be God and stop trying to run your life yourself!  That’s a hard one for me, but I keep practicing.

I am glad that I don’t have to be in control.  I can’t handle the pressure.  I like the fact that I can turn it all over to God.  I don’t have to worry.  1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  Another way to think of that verse is, “Cast all your anxiety on him and he will do the caring for you.”  God will worry for you, so you don’t need to.  I love that! 

I am so glad that I am not in control of this airplane.  I don’t think I could handle that pressure either!  I don’t trust the nameless pilot nearly as much as I trust God.  Here’s hoping the pilot had a good night’s sleep on a fluffy, but not too fluffy, pillow.  I don’t know whether he did or not.  For now, I will pray to the Almighty Pilot who I do trust about the nameless pilot who I don’t trust.  Then, I’ll hang on for the ride and not worry.  God will worry for me.     -Al



 
 
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I used to look at mothers with older children and wonder what that felt like.  I figured it hurt really badly to know that your babies didn’t need you anymore.  I wondered how a mother could go on with her life without having little ones to take care of.  Wouldn’t she be lonely?  Wouldn’t she be sad?  How would she spend all her time?  I’m learning, though, as mine get older, that having bigger kids isn’t so bad in many ways!

In one way, it is like taking a piece of your heart and putting it out in the world.  It’s like saying, “There you go, world.  Take your best shot!  Kick it!  Kick it again!”  Motherhood hurts much worse than anyone told me about.  Everyone wanted to tell me their grotesque stories of 36 hour labors and C-sections, but no one told me what I really need to know….that the world would hurt me through my children repeatedly and deeply; that the world would be so cruel to my kids that I would find myself on my knees with nothing but a prayer to rely on.

If you are a mother and are reading this and thinking, “I’ve never felt that way,” just wait.  I hate to be the voice of doom, but your time is coming.  I pray that your time won’t be as traumatic as some of mine, but the time will come.  You will have days when you feel like your heart has shattered into a million pieces because of the hurts that your children are suffering.

On the flip side, I am learning that it sure is nice to have kids that are somewhat self-sufficient. They aren’t as dependent on me as they once were.  That makes me sad and excited all at the same time.  In one sad way, it means that my babies aren’t babies anymore.  In another happy way, it means that my babies aren’t babies anymore!  It’s a mixed bag of emotions.  No wonder I’m a basket-case.

There are advantages to having older kids.

 I love the fact that the girl fixes me a cup of coffee in the morning.  Honestly.  She does.  She puts the cream and sugar and delivers it to me as I’m working.  She doesn’t even sprinkle glitter in it or let the dog lick the edge of the cup as she once might have done.

I love the fact that when I have a lot of things to load into the truck, the boy can pull it up to the front door for me.  If it starts raining while I’m in the grocery store, he can go get the car so I don't have to get wet.

I love the fact that the girl can paint my toenails.  She painted them today in a pink and black zebra stripe, and they look fabulous!  It’s not even the type of paint job that would make me say, “Oh, thank you so much for painting my nails,” as I was hiding in the bathroom using nail polish remover.

I love the fact that my kids can talk to me….I mean REALLY talk to me.  About their hopes and dreams.  About their fears.  About who has hurt them and how.  They can communicate with me in ways that would have been impossible when they were little, and I love that.

I sometimes look at my kids and wonder what the future holds.  I don’t know if the boy will end up being a mechanic, as I think he will.  I have no idea at this point what the girl will do with her life.  Sometimes, I feel fearful about that.  Other times, I am excited.  I look forward to the day when I can sit with my adult children and talk as friends.  I also dread that day.  I guess that day is coming whether I dread it or relish it.  So for now, I will  make the best out of every day I have.   
-Al


 
 
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So many times in this great world of ours, people tend to paint the best picture possible of their lives, their talents and themselves.  Think about it. 

When you were asked to send in a photo for your high school alumni book, did you send them the photo your 8 year old shot of you at the beach when you were cramming that sandwich in your mouth, or did you send the airbrushed, professionally-made photo from 9 years ago, before that 8 year old gave you baby fat?  You know what you did.

When you were asked to write a little biography of yourself for the PTA newsletter, did you tell about how your house had ants in the kitchen and hair in the bathroom, or did you tell about the doctorate that you earned in rocket science that you haven’t used since you graduated? You know what you did.

When you wrote that ever-annoying Christmas newsletter (it’s true...most of us find it annoying), did you tell about how many times your precious, pierced, tattooed child was caught skipping school, or did you tell how he made an A+ in Chemistry (without mentioning the F– in Algebra)?  You know what you did.

It’s true, and you know it.  We all do it.  We want to show our best.  We want the world to believe that we are perfect, our lives are perfect, and our families are perfect.  Well, I, for one, am sick of it!  I can’t be perfect.  It just isn’t in my genes.  I tried, briefly, in the late 90s to maintain that image.  It didn’t work out very well for me.  So, I am a sweet potato...I yam what I yam.  Like me or lump me.

I think some people are scared of me.  I think some people don’t know how to take me.  I think some people don’t like me because I remind them of all the bad things they have going on.  But, I am me, and that’s all I’m going to be. (Hey!  I’m a poet!)

You should try it with me.  It’s very liberating.  Just be you.  Give it a try.  You may find that you like you, just the way you are!  And, you may find that the people who really matter will like you better.  More than anything, you will find that it takes a whole lot less energy to just be you.  Why, you can even go to the store, *GASP* without make-up.  Try it…

It always amuses me when people say they like me because I’m so real.  I chuckle because I don’t really know how to take that.  I guess I should be happy to know that I am not pretend!  Come, be not pretend with me.  It’s great being real.   
-Al
 

 
 
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In April, 2012, we had one disaster after another hit. First, my husband ended up in the hospital with 190/130 blood pressure.  That was scary, and it was enough to cause us to make some major life changes.  We started eating better and exercising more.  The changes were sudden and drastic, but we did it.  However, don’t tell him he was overweight.  You DO NOT want to get him started!

Two weeks later, the freestanding garage that housed our business burned to the ground.  In one hour, we lost our pottery business and my husband’s tools.  In 60 minutes, we lost a good 2/3 of our measly little income.  We were already living on a shoestring, and that fateful hour cut the string.  We also lost the ability to make ends meet when they weren’t, because my husband always did odd jobs to meet the bills.  We thought we would be okay for a while, because it was tax time and we were expecting a big refund.

A week later, we received word that someone had stolen my social security number and our tax return.  (And might I say, “Shame.  Shame on them!”)  Our joke in the whole thing was that whoever did that had just inherited worse credit than they already had.  That’ll fix ‘em.

So, in less than 30 days, our sad little world had caved in.  I had two choices.  I could curl up and go to sleep, or I could get up and put one foot in front of the other until things got better.  For the sake of my kids and my husband, I did the latter. 

Through dealing with the issues that came, I learned many things and I was reminded of many things.  I won’t list them all, because you would surely lose interest way before I finished the list. (I know..”Don’t call me Shirley.”)  So, for the sake of time and your need for a social life, I will just name 5 things that God taught me through April 2012.

1. God will not let us starve to death.  My butt is proof of that.  It is just as fat now as it was at the beginning of April.  (Okay, maybe not quite as fat, but that is because of the major life changes we made after my husband’s trip to the hospital.)  We have not missed one meal.  We have not missed one bill.  We lost 2/3 of our income, and we had our bills paid sooner in May than we normally would have.  God will (and did!) provide.  He always does. Matthew 6:25– 34 and John 14:27 were verses that I focused on.

2. A church family is a good thing to have.  We were so tremendously blessed by our church family during our hard times!  Over the course of 3 weeks, we had close to $2500 handed to us by members of the church.  Besides that, we were given buckets (literally!) of tools.  It was unbelievable how much God blessed us through our church family.  Galations 6:10 and 1 Peter 2: 9-10 are two verses that talked about this.

3. It is what it is.  That may seem redundant or confusing, but it’s true.  It is what it is, and I can’t change it.  I had to quit obsessing over things I could not control and just focus on who was in control.  Through worry, I accomplished nothing.  If I had listened to worry, I would have gone to sleep in my bed and not gotten up.  I would have wallowed in my self pity and focused on no one but me.  I would have been angry at God and angry at myself for being angry at God.  That would have done no one any good.  Instead, with God’s help, I let it go.  I realized that it truly is what it is.  Since there was nothing I could do about it, I just looked upward instead of around.  Read Proverbs 12:25, Luke 12:32, Psalm 55:22 and Philippians 4:6-7.

4. Kale is gross.  Oh wait. That’s a different subject.  I’m not sure God taught me that, but our little side trip to the hospital sure did!  I don’t care how you cook it, juice it or season it, kale is nasty.

4. (really) I am not in control.  I don’t have much to say about this one, but it is probably the biggest lesson I learned.  I...am….not...in...control.  Until I stopped trying to control things, God let me flounder.  As soon as I relinquished control, life started to improve.  Focus on Psalm 46:10.

5. God has big plans for me.  I don’t know what they are yet, but I know He does.  How do I know?  He told me in Jeremiah 29:11-13.  Do I believe this?  Absolutely!  If I believe God’s word, then I have to believe this.  He was speaking to the Israelites, but I believe this was also for me.  I take comfort in that, and it scares me to death all at the same time.  What does God have in store for me?  Who knows.  I may have to go through many more struggles to get there, but as the old saying goes, “If He takes me to it, He’ll get me through it.”  He hasn’t failed me yet, and I don’t believe he will.

6. (Okay.  I lied...there aren’t 5.)  He will work it out.  How?  I don’t know.  When?  I don’t know.  Where?  I don’t know.  With whom?  I don’t know.  I’m not sounding very convincing right now, am I?  It’s true, though.  There are so many times in my past that I can look back at and know that God’s providence was there and He worked it out.  It’s those times in life that make us strong and give us faith.  So, if that’s what it takes to mold me into the person I need to be, bring them on!  I would like it if I could just have it easy for a little while, but, for one last cliché, I know that no matter what tomorrow holds, God holds tomorrow.  Read Romans 8:31 and Romans 8:28.

If you are having an “April” kind of month, just hang on.  This too shall pass in time.  If you are having a good month, enjoy it and be prepared.  We all have an April eventually.  There is no need to fear it, though, because God already has it covered.    
-Al