Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Story

Pastor Jim told the congregation Sunday that we should prepare "our stories” because he is going to call on us to tell them. And I think he is serious.
Fear was nearly palpable as people imagined themselves standing in the spotlight, eyes watching them stand alone to tell some of the most intimate details of their lives.
I’m sure some are contemplating not returning to church until after his assignment is due and everybody has completed the terrifying task. My thoughts have been more on conjuring up the best excuse — the most believable — for why I won’t be able, unfortunately, to speak.
So that was settled. There is no way I’m going to obey. No way I am going to step out of my comfort zone, walk down that aisle and up those steps. There is no way I am going to hold the microphone, let alone speak into it.
And then it came to me Monday afternoon as I was struggling for a topic for this column. The reason I don’t want to get up in front of the church to tell my story is because I don’t think it’s special enough to hear. I don’t think you’ll care. And maybe you won’t.
But what if you do?
And the “what if you do” part is why I’m going to lay it all on the line. Because while you probably know a lot about me since I am a born-and-raised Lawrence countian, I’m pretty sure I’ve never been this candid about the most important thing in my life.
It all started a couple of years ago when we found ourselves attending church. But it wasn’t until I began participating in Sunday school that I found Christ.
I remember the day clearly. The kids were taking a morning nap, and I was sitting on the couch reading that day’s Bible lesson. The story was about Abraham and his son, Isaac. God tested Abraham’s devotion by asking him to sacrifice his one and only son, whom he loved. When Abraham was about to kill his son, God provided a ram for sacrifice so Abraham’s beloved son could live.
It was like a light bulb turned on inside my head and woke me up from my 20-plus year slumber!
God sacrificed his one and only son, whom he loved, so that we could live. He is our ultimate provider and His son, Jesus, is what He has provided so that we can live and not die.
Life changed for me that moment. And the journey since has been one of incredible personal growth, which has made me a better wife and mom. I wish I had the space to tell you all the different ways I’ve seen God move in my life, including two financial miracles that only can be explained by divine intervention.
And I know, without a doubt, He has an army of angels living in my attic to rescue my kids from all the shenanigans they pull! (Next time you see me, ask about the space heater and toilet water!)
Even with all the miracles and my changed heart, I struggle daily, hourly and some times moment-to-moment to keep my minds’ eye focused on what is pure, what is right and what is holy. I still want to control what I can’t control, and my fleshly desires still sometimes win.
I don’t want you to think this profession of my faith in any way elevates me. Since becoming a Christian, I see myself in a whole other light. It’s like my faults are blared in neon lights. But my shortcomings, thankfully, are not nearly as important as the path I’m on now.
And I hope you’ve sensed a change in me. I pray that you see I’m not the same girl you once knew. Because I’m not. And now you know why.

As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Friday, January 8, 2010

All aboard the Polar Express

As we were waiting — all six of us — to board the Polar Express in Branson, I realized we had bitten off more than we could chew.
It was freezing temperatures, and we were outside with four tired kids on a platform crammed to bursting with other tired and cold passengers. Everybody was impatient. All the kids were hysterical with excitement. My arms were numb from trying to hold and wrangle Masen, who had had enough and was throwing the biggest tantrum of his almost 2-year-old life.
I decided, amid the mayhem, that I was done. I wanted to leave. Walk away and never come back. Our holiday intentions had blown up into our faces and we were left with an impossible mess of tears, snot and grumpy bystanders. Merry Christmas was what we intended. Bah, humbug, was how I felt.
And then Rylan had to go the bathroom.
All we could do was laugh as Matt, Bella and Rylan made the trek through throngs of people back to take care of a situation that typical toddler boys wait to the last minute to take care of.
But we survived, and an eternity later, we heard the conductor boom “All aboard!!!” — which had no magical effect on us because it was drowned out by the agonizing screams of our youngest son.
Soon we were settled into our seats, and the Polar Express story was being read over the speakers. The kids mellowed a bit after their bellies were full of hot cocoa and cookies.
Lights dazzled the outside darkness, making for an interesting ride for the pajama-clad little folks.
Excitement built again when the train made a stop at the North Pole to pick up Santa Claus and we waved at the elves, who were busy building toys and dancing to Christmas music.
Santa came by and gave each kid a sleigh bell, and the conductor made a stop to punch the kids’ first initials into their tickets.
And as Christmas carols blasted on the train speakers and I could barely hear the music over my kids’ joyous voices, I realized it was all worth it.
Despite our stress and discomfort, the children found the spirit of what the trip was intended to be. They laughed, they sang, they ate, and they smiled.
I could almost hear the memories being made and burned into their little brains. They won’t remember the cold and unbearable wait to board the train. Their memories will be filled with Christmas music, hot chocolate and Santa Claus.
Thankfully, the Christmas magic that used to live in Matt and me as children burns hot in our kids. And it’s contagious. Who could resist smiling when you’re sitting next to a child whose happy face is covered in cookie, hot cocoa and dried snot? You can’t.
I found out this last weekend I have to sit back, enjoy the train ride of life and realize that life is what you make it, and my life is good.
Merry Christmas to you all! God bless.
As seen in the Lawrence County Record

And smile, smile, smile

It’s nearly 2010, and I’ve decided to be happy about it. Literally.
My New Year’s resolution is to be happy more. Smile when there’s nothing to smile about. Laugh when I want to cry. Be silent when I want to scream. In general, I want to hold back on every natural urge I have to be the out-spoken, glass-half-empty person I’ve grown to be.
You see, it seems nearly every time a New Year has gone by, I, like others who live past their youth, have found myself with more and more responsibilities. And since I’m the type who gets stressed beyond the point of helpful and despises imperfection, I’ve found myself grumpy at the ripe old age of 27.
(Pause for reaction.)
I know I know. I have nothing to be grumpy about. I have a healthy family, a farm, my own health, a job ... and the list could go on and on. But I have, since becoming the mother of four and wife of one, turned into a mission-accomplished-oriented person. I don’t handle “winging it,” and I don’t like to mess up routines. In turn, I’ve lost that crazy spirit that used to live inside.
Growing up, I was the clown in our little group. Laughing was my favorite thing, and I did plenty of it. Thankfully, my childhood was filled with many more smiles than tears and much more laughter than yelling. So why have I allowed myself to become so embittered?
Am I that unthankful? Do I really have that much relying on my actions?
Well the answer to both questions is yes. Matt and I have four souls resting on our shoulders, relying on us to carry them into their adulthood unharmed and hopefully with enough spunk not to be menaces to society.
And I was raised with the schooling of: “You’re more than capable of doing that yourself, Ginia.”
Problem is, now I’ve taken that mentality to the extreme. See, there are many things I can do by myself in this life. Most of the physical demands on my life I can handle. But all the mental stress of being a partner in this farm and in this bigger-than-most-family is something I cannot do alone.
Sure, Matt and I have each other and a very supportive extended family. But what I’ve learned in the last couple years is that I am nothing without something else. Something supernatural. An all-powerful, life-giving, need-providing source. God.
I’ve come to recognize that if I don’t lean on Him, I will crumble. If I don’t give it to Him, I will screw it up.
I’m slowly learning to daily give my troubles to the Lord (and my praises, too). It’s hard to give up control, but the more slack He takes in my reins, the more stable I feel. The more relieved I feel.
I have a safety net. I’m free to fall head-first into this beautiful life I’ve been blessed with and know that no matter what happens I’m going to be OK. Phew!
So as I embark on this New Year, I plan to work on not throwing away this gift God’s given me. I’m going to enjoy it. Responsibilities and all.
I’m going to smile.
As seen in the Lawrence County Record