Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why I'm spending my money on "crap" this Christmas

Ok, so at the risk of sounding really awful, I am posting my feelings toward this movement that we should be giving to the poor and needy, instead of blowing money on "stuff" at Christmas time. I rarely post a blog. I think it's because, once I write something, post it, and someone reads it, I can't take it back. So, I don't post. But I want to post this blog. I want to try to put my finger on, and articulate to you, what has been bothering me about this whole movement to conspire at Christmas to put the true meaning of Christmas back into Christmas. Which, apparently, is to take care of the poor and needy, and not to waste money on stuff, that will lose it's luster in a matter of days or weeks, and sometimes even moments, as we rush to open the next package. You see, I was actually attending Imago Dei church, when the idea of Advent Conspiracy was conceived and brought to life. At the time I thought it was a wonderful idea, and we participated along with our church body, and wells were dug, and people had clean water, and less money was spent on junk. So what is the problem?? Doesn't this sound like a wonderful, life giving event? Shouldn't we all jump on this well-meaning and quite beautiful band wagon? Well... yes... and no.

We all know about the poor. We see commercials of them, with their round and distended bellies, empty of food. We see pictures of them, living among filth, no clean water in sight. We even see them, in person, pushing their shopping carts and making their "beds" on the streets at night. Should this move us? Yes! Does it move me? Sometimes... sadly, never enough. But sometimes. Is Christmas the time for it to move me the most? Maybe, but I don't think so. Is it wrong that this Thursday I intend to go to the stores and "blow" my hard earned cash on "stuff" for my spouse and kids, when all someone else wants is a clean glass of water? When I put it like that, it sure seems terribly wrong.

Well, I've pondered this a lot, and have been able to see all of my sweet friends on facebook posting blogs who are pondering the same thoughts, only to come up with a different conclusion for themselves. They plan to teach their children about "right" or "real" giving. Where the need is so great, the gift can actually give physical life to another. They are buying things like goats, or seeds, instead of bouncing balls and Barbie dolls.

So again, why am I not jumping on this very well-meaning and actually life giving band wagon?! Well, because Mary broke an expensive and very large jar of perfume on Jesus' feet. She "wasted" perfume that could have been sold, and the money given to those in great need. She did this out of love for her Savior. Judas Iscariot (the betrayer) was not pleased. He even mentions the poor. And Jesus says that "the poor we will always have" and then He tells them that they won't always have Him. You see, we will not always have these moments, the ones where our children are here, living under our roof, being cared for and loved on by us. I am suggesting that these memories we make together during times of celebration can and even should include a bit of extravagance, like when the prodigal son returned home. I am suggesting that giving someone a gift can and is a way to show love to your "neighbor". I am suggesting, that there is always going to be those in need, and they will always need our help. I am suggesting that we should give to the poor all the rest of the year. But at Christmas I want to put that aside for just a little while.

Maybe it's because my family does things differently the rest of the year, that I'm feeling this way. We don't buy ourselves or our children things that we want, or even things that we need. (And by need I don't mean food water and shelter, but need based on an American standard of living). We don't take vacations, we rarely, if ever, go out to eat, we clean our own house, I almost never get my hair done or a pedicure, my kids go without new underwear, socks, books, toys, and clothes all year round. Sometimes, the girls will save up by working for allowance, and buy something they want. But for the most part, birthdays and Christmas are it for our yearly spoil. Do I fault my dear Christian brothers and sisters for spending money on these things all year round? Do I write blogs rebuking them for living it up, while people are dying? No. I don't. Should I? Maybe... but I don't think so. I think that as long as you are not accruing debt, and you are still giving generously when and where you can, you should enjoy the blessings God has given you.

And about this giving generously. It should include three principles. It should be done cheerfully, it should be done for God's glory alone, and it should be done anonymously. When you give, and it is out of obligation, and not out of joy, God would rather you didn't give at all. When you give, in order to look good, or to make someone's life easier rather than for God's glory alone, it is in vain. When you give and tell about it, you are paid in full your blessings. The praise of man is all that you will receive from that gift. And it takes away from the gift completely. I can tell you, first hand, there is very little joy in receiving charity, unless it is done anonymously. Also, when you tell about the wonderful thing you are doing, others will compare themselves to you, and they will either come out ahead or behind. Either way, the focus is on man and not God.

It seems to me that holidays were created by God and given to man to serve a purpose. And I don't believe it was to mope and fuss about the woes of this fallen world, of which of there are many. That purpose, I believe, was and is to celebrate. Yes! Celebrate the babe in the manger! Yes! Celebrate your Salvation, given you by God's grace and mercy in the death and resurrection of that very same babe! But I say live it up! Have a feast! Emulate the great wedding banquet in heaven! Buy your loved ones something that you normally wouldn't, or that you normally would, but this time wrap it up and put a bow on it. And then, wake up tomorrow, and put those in the margins of society, back on your heart. And pray about how you can help and how you can give. And then do it. Because as Christ Himself said, "the poor we will always have."

Merry Christmas my dear sweet readers. May the King of kings bless you this day and everyday. May He alone be glorified in all things and through all things. And may this post bring you freedom from condemnation, and may it return the joy that possibly has been lost to you by the good intentions of others.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

No "Body" is perfect

Tonight John and I are meeting with some elders, one of them the Pastor, to discuss becoming a member of Rockdale Community Church. And before I seal the deal, I just have to brag about this wonderful body, before I become an official part of it, and can no longer brag without it being a boast about my own self!

When we first visited Rockdale, I was immediatly in love. It is a smallish Reformed Baptist Community Church, located in Conyers. I had been invited by one of the ladies that take my Zumba classes. (LOve you Bekah!)I felt so welcome and right at home from the very start. It was such a relief to find somewhere so quickly after we moved here. We went to 8 or 9 churches in AZ, and still never found a church home.

Of course, since our first visit, I have had my moments of doubt. For as you know no matter what body I am a part of, it is made up of saints that sin, and will not be perfect. And the longer you attend somewhere, the more likely you will see the weaknesses of that particular body.

My first struggle was one with labels. I hate labels. Period. What more can I say?? I only want to be labeled "lover of Jesus" or "Christ follower". But I've come to realize that labels can be a sort of protection. Keeping truth true, and untruth out. So, although I do not call myself a Calvanist, a Baptist, or a Reformed Theologist. I can associate myself with a body that does, and feel quite at ease with almost a hundred percent of their theology. And actually most everyone that attends Rockdale, feels the same way about labels as I do, and doesn't necessarily label themselves either.

My second struggle was, with the future, when Echo would be joining us for church. If any of you have met my "energetic" son, you will immediately understand my fears and anxieties. Echo is unlike any other boy I've ever been around. I've seen some come close, but I think he takes the cake on curiosity mixed with creativity, mixed with determination and physical ability. Anyways, I've decided to just cross that bridge when we get to it. A lot can change in a year. Right??

Let's talk about why I love this place and these people. They may not be perfect, but they love each other, and it is obvious. They pray for each other, come up under each other, practice the "one anothers" throughout the rest of the week, spend time together, and provide for each others spiritual and practical needs. The welcome that they extend to guests is unmatched! Although they are a tight knit group,however, it is not a closed tight knit group. There is always room in their hearts and congregation for more!!

There is an hour of Sunday School before the Regular service. I've never attended any Sunday School at a Christian church before, and it is intimate, Bible teaching, interesting, fun, thought provoking, and bond building. The kids attend their own Sunday School during this hour, and they are really learning God's Word. They have fun, but that isn't what it's focus is. The focus is on God and the Good News of the Gospel.

Church starts with worship. It is a great mix of classic and beautiful hymns, and contemporary Christian music. It is Spirit filled and somewhat quiet. I actually prefer a little more outward show of worship. But nonetheless I enjoy the sincerity and beauty of our corporate worship time.

We then have corporate prayer. I have been to many many churches. And this is almost never a part of Sunday Services. Anyone that wants to pray, confess, adore, ask the LORD is welcome to. Usually at a Bible study, or church very little time is spent in actual prayer. It is almost an after thought, or rushed through at the beginning. A praying church is a powerful church.

Then for a Bible teaching, thorough, well planned but not rehearsed sounding, convicting, encouraging, not a mere 28 minutes long, more like an hour, and sincere. Our kids sit with us (Blaze and Shade do, while Echo and Lock are in extended service). All of us are growing so much in the LORD, and it astounds me how much the girls are getting out of it.

Every Sunday we take communion. I love taking Communion every Sunday. It doesn't get old for me. I need to remember. Remember Jesus' sacrifice for me. Remember the forgiveness and redemption found at the cross. Remember the competed work and the power of the resurrection. How could that get old?

Rockdale doesn't pass around an offering or make a mention of money ever, that I have heard. There is an offering box in the foyer that you can give if you feel led, and how you feel led. They don't seem to have any financial struggles, and they are not in debt. The pastor actually had a full time paying job for most of his time in his position, and wasn't even paid. I know this is a huge testimony to many that think churches only care about getting at your wallet. I've never felt this way, but I still think this is a wonderful approach to handling money and church.

They are about to launch small groups soon, and I am really excited to get involved in a small group, and to get to know more people at the church. These groups will last about six weeks, and then rotate, which will avoid the whole cliquish feeling that small groups can incur. Also, more people will get the opportunity to know each other every new rotation.

Well, as I write this, I'm looking forward to tonight. But I'm looking even more forward to when John, the kids and I stand in front of all those smiling and loving faces, and make our commitment to them and them to us. It is like being grafted into a huge family. A huge, wonderful, loving, imperfect, beautiful mess of a family....

"If Jesus thought the church worth dying for, it may just be worth living in." Mark Galli

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

At the Foot of the Cross

A broken marriage is heartbreaking. And that is an understatement. Two fallen and sinful people coming together to make one. To me it sounds doomed from the start, a recipe for disaster even. And yet, God created it. And somehow it is even the very picture of Christ and His church. Of course, ours is a marriage made on earth, among sin and sinfulness and flesh and decay. His is a marriage made in heaven. And so what do we do, with this earthly, sometimes broken, sometimes painful marriage? How do we respond to a spouse that is imperfect, sinful, and sometimes really difficult to live with?

Before marriage, I was not one of those Christians that thought "Hey, I'm a pretty great Christian!" I was, and still am pretty aware of my wretchedness. So it didn't come as a shock to me, when I did not turn out to be the Proverbs 31 woman in my role as a wife. However, in the microcosm of my little world, my sins have become even MORE magnified! Magnified to a degree, that it becomes essential to address them and not to ignore or just live with them. So now that I've discovered that I'm an even worse sinner than I originally thought.... now what?
What do I do with the disappointments? The pain? Scrap it? Pray for early widowhood? (See, I am an ugly sinner) Become a constant nag? Fake it 'til I make it? Try harder????

I've tried all of these ways, and they just don't work. Well, I haven't totally scrapped it, but I did check out emotionally and have been unavailable to my husband for long periods of time. And that may be even worse in some ways. Thankfully my prayers for widowhood went unanswered. And nagging only made things worse. God's Word says that I am sickness in John's bones when I nag him. Focusing on my own behaviors, and trying harder, just causes more disappointment, more despair, when I fail, or self-righteousness, bitterness, and resentment when I succeed.

Thank You God for the Titus 2 women in my life. Thank you God for Your Word. For in my questioning of You and Your plan, you lovingly guided me to where I needed to go. For when my sins are magnified, the need for the cross is also magnified. And when I go to the foot of the cross I am right where You want me. Here I will lay myself down, and wrap my body and mind around it. Allowing the blood of Jesus to flow down and over and cover every inch of my being. A robe of blood that becomes my robe of righteousness. It hides my blemishes, washes away my sin, changes me, renews my mind and makes my heart tender. If every time I fail, I capture my wrong thought and make it obedient to Christ. If I spend time with Him, seeking Him in His Word, and I leave that place with His aroma covering the stench of my flesh. If I be still, knowing that He is God, listening for His voice, crying out to Him my worries and my sadness. And even all of this is still by His Grace alone and through His Holy Spirit alone and by His Power alone. In my weakness, He is my strength. To Him alone be the Glory.

To an unbeliever this will sound foreign, and the blood visual will even sound like a remake of the horror flick "Carrie". But to those that have tasted the grace and mercy of His forgiveness. To those that have found themselves at the foot of the cross. This is the most beautiful scene in the Story of Life.

At the foot of the cross there is no judgement. There is no condemnation. There is Redemption. There is Salvation. There is Power. Here I can trade what is of no value to me, for something I could never earn or purchase. I can begin to live in a Heavenly Kingdom as the daughter of a King. I can walk in the same power that raises the dead, and makes alive the dead parts of my own life.

God takes no joy in my pain. Pain is a necessity at times, and through this fire, this refining fire, I come out with a little less dross and a little more shine. And instead of just enduring the pain, I can even take joy in my suffering, if I remember it is changing me more and more to be like my Beloved Jesus.

So, this day, when I fail once again in some way or another, or when I am hurt by the sin of another, I will lay myself down in the only place that can change me, heal me, and bring me peace and joy inexplicable.

The cross.....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Press On

Lately everywhere I turn I am faced with hope. I can't escape it, not that I want to. There have been many times in my life that I have felt the emptiness and terrror of (almost) absolute hopelessness. All the time grasping for a God I wanted to believe was there. Was He Knowing, Caring, Still in control? Unable to see any hope. Blinded by sadness, circumstances and self-centeredness. And yet I pressed on.

Driving in my car the other night, I thought back to the path my life has taken so far, and where I am today. Seeing His Hand on me throughout all those dark times, I became overwhelmed with gratitude. My heart overflowed with thankfulness to God, my God had never forsaken me, He never will. He, who in perfect wisdom, does whatever is good and great and right. And resting in those truths, I press on.

God has been loving me through some amazing people lately. I am surrounded by and being loved by an amazing body of Christ. I am being encouraged and prayed for. Whose thoughts of me are precious. I have been grafted into and adopted by this body. And for the first time in my life, I want to become a member of a church. And even as I write this my palms feel sweaty and my heart races.And my mind wanders to all of the "what ifs" (like a groom with very cold feet). But I press on.

This morning with each sip of my coffe (that my sweet husband made me), out of my brand new mug, I am faced with hope. No, literally, it says the word "Hope" on the inside (thanks Cheryl!) And I ponder over what my hope is in. My hope is in HIM, who has my every tear in a bottle, who gave himself for me, even unto death, who loved me first, when I was so unlovable, who never did and never will forsake me, even when I turn away, who has a beautiful plan for me, that I take no credit for, who loves me tenderly and sometimes painfully, even when I reject Him, and who conquered sin and death, giving me the same power of the resurrection to Just Press On!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Lost Art of Writing a Letter

My sweet Blaze writes to her grandma. She takes a pen, and a piece of paper, she writes something personal and friendly, she puts it into an envelope and addresses it, she applies the proper postage, and walks it to the mailbox. I have never told her to, I have never even taught her how. She just did it, completely unsolicited, on her own. This last month has been extremely difficult for my mother in law (she lost her dad and her dog), and so Blaze's last letter, was somewhat sympathetic. However, I don't think that compassion is her gift! lol! This is the letter (with permission from Blaze):

"Dear Grandma,
Sorry I didn't write sooner, but I've been pre-occupied over Summer affairs. well i've had a great time for summer, i have some new friend's! I'm sorry for Sophie and your Dad, i bet your sad :( well it's not the end of the world, and i bet you will still be happy!
Grand-daughter Blaze"

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Flying Sober

Maybe you've heard the saying: "There is nothing to fear but fear itself", well in my opinion that is a load of you know what. Without fear, we could not give God a proper response. Fear promotes a need for peace, and that is a need only God can really fulfill. It is only in moments of realizing our humanity... our mortality, can we really begin to rely on and cling to God fully. He speaks to us so tenderly in our moments of terror. He draws us in. He surrounds us. It is then that we feel His presence more fully than any other time.

Just recently I experienced this for myself. I am scared of flying. And really that is putting it mildly. Let's just say, when I am about to embark on an airplane, when I say "goodbye" to my friends, my husband, and my sweet little children, I am literally saying "GOODBYE... SAYANARA... SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE... IT WAS NICE KNOWING YA... HAVE FUN AT MY FUNERAL". No exaggeration. When that cock pit door closes, I hear the creaking of a coffin and the pounding of the nails. Are you getting the idea? Well, in order to get to my Zumba convention, I needed to ride in one of these flying coffins. Usually I call up my mom, and ask her to loan me a Valium or two... or three. But she was out of town. So, I rode to my grave sober minded. And thank God that I did!

Before I left, my dear dear friend Rebekah and I prayed together on the phone. During her prayer, she was moved to pray for me that God would give me a thought that I could cling to that would bring me peace when I felt afraid. I am so thankful for my friend who listens so closely to God's Holy Spirit, and for God who has placed this dear person in my life.

At take off, I cried. Literally, there were tears pouring down my cheeks. No one noticed, because I did it completely silently (a skill I didn't know I had). I almost reached across the aisle a dozen times to hold hands with an old man. The really hot guy next to me was not an option. After we reached a "safe" altitude, they began drink service. Right after they gave me my coffee, the pilot turns on the safety belt sign and says "We are approaching some weather, I am sorry to have to interrupt drink service. Flight attendants please secure the cabin." Well, what I heard was "We are about to fly into a storm, we are all going to die. And oh yeah... all you chumps that didn't get anything to drink, so sorry". Before I left for this trip, I was reading with Shade a book for school all about thunder and lightning, and here is the picture that is permeating every part of my mind:

At this point the tears are streaming and the whispered prayers are pouring out. When all of a sudden, I am literally jarred by a vision. It is a baby, being held in the arms of someone, in heaven. And in that moment I knew that that baby was the baby I lost to a miscarriage some years back. I never think about that little soul. And here she pops into my head. Reminding me that I have so much to look forward to when I die. Lately I have struggled with heaven. It sounds so anticeptic and monotonous and boring. I know that this is a wrong view. But it is mine nonetheless. Heaven just got a lot more interesting. I prayed, clinging to that beautiful vision, that beautiful little baby. After a few more minutes, I opened my eyes and I cautiously looked out the window, and there boldly painting the sky, was a beautiful rainbow. A covenant. A promise. For what? A definite outcome of what I desired? No... a hope.

At this point I yell out to said hot guy/neighbor "LOOK a RAINBOW" (and silently... "we might live!!") The guy on the other side of him says "he doesn't speak english". We get to talking and I find out that these two are on their way to "rehab". At first I'm like "jeez... that's personal information", then they clarify they are ball players. When I ask if it's a team I would know, they were like. "The Atlanta Braves". They were very humble. And after that treated me like they would a little sister, and helped me find my way around the Orlando airport, and to my shuttle. I asked them if they had noticed how scared I was, and they hadn't, thankfully.

Fast forward to my next trip, my flight home. I had made friends with a lady at the convention. She was one of six people that were sharing two rooms, but we were not in the same one. Howerver we had run with the same crowd all weekend. She was also a strong believer. I hadn't got a chance to say goodbye to her, and I saw her at my gate at the airport and I ran up to hug her goodbye. We discovered that we were on the same flight. But then much to our total dismay and delight we discovered that we were sitting RIGHT NEXT to each other!! Yay! Someone to hold hands with. We prayed together, we shared our testimonies, we became solid. It was amazing. Only God could've orchestrated something so very perfect. And I am so thankful.

If I had done what I normally do, numbed my fears with a pill and maybe a cocktail, the opportunity for God to show up for me would have been lost, although it's true, I wouldn't have ever known what I had missed. Thank You Father for giving me the courage. Which, by the way, isn't absence of fear, but having fear and going for it anyways!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hide it in your heart

This morning during my devotional time, I came to Romans 8 in my Bible reading. It brought me back to high school, when I was only a year into my walk with Jesus, and I was studying for an event called "Bible Bowl" (like "knowledge bowl" just biblically focused). I had to memorize the King James Version of the entire chapter of Romans 8. I am pretty sure I got last pick of which chapter, because everyone else had twenty-something verses to memorize, and I had 39. As I read through the verses this morning, I was so moved by the message God wanted me to carry in my heart through out the very dark path I ended up taking. He wanted me to know that I wasn't condemned, He warned me about my flesh, He told me to hope in what I couldn't see, and that I was chosen. And finally He told me that nothing, absolutely nothing, could separate us.

I thought about the knobby knees on my teenage body, and how I thought they would carry me to the mission field. I thought I was satan's worst enemy and Jesus' greatest fan. I told everyone about Jesus that would listen, and even a few who didn't want to listen! I was on fire... a Jesus freak.

I could blame the turn on a boy, a bad childhood, no parental supervision, or low self-esteem. And those are partly to blame... well except low self-esteem, but I will get back to that. I can't say for sure why I did the things I did. But instead of finding myself in Africa teaching other missionaries children in a private school, I found myself, "playing house" with certain boyfriends, and eventually numbing the pain and filling the emptiness with a continuous stream of drug use.

I want to get back to that whole lie of low self-esteem. No where in the bible does it talk about needing to think MORE highly of one's self. As a matter of fact a complete opposite message is given. We need to be more humble, lowly, and put others interest above our own. We need to see ourselves in comparison to a holy, powerful, perfect, merciful, loving, majestic God. Compared to him we are but a vapor. Whenever I am struggling with depression and or anxiety, it is mostly to blame on being ungrateful, and self absorbed. The more we turn our thoughts outwards to others and to God, the less time we have to grovel and complain. If our whole strength, mind, and soul are loving God and others, we dont' have a lot of time to think "oh poor me".

Anyways, fast forward to today. That message that I carried with me through those very dark times probably never surfaced to the front of my mind, until this morning. And I was so overwhelmed with the truth that they held for me in that moment. I am not condemned, I am still chosen, I have hope in what is unseen, and nothing separates me from the love of God, because of my dear Christ Jesus.

I've often wondered if I would have gone to heaven if I had died during those years of walking after fleshly desires. I know that I had made a true decision to follow Jesus. I know that I had repented and asked Jesus to be Lord of my life. And I also know that we all fall short of God's glory. Does it matter how short? Doesn't Christ cover all our sins? Past, present and future? I mean, I still sin today. And all sin has the same consequences. Only God knows the true heart of a man. And underneath all of that ugliness, my heart still contained those words from Romans 8. And another favorite of mine: "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philipians 1:6.

I am so thankful to my God for not leaving me in that place. I am so thankful for not having the consequences that I deserved. And even more than that I am so thankful for the abundance of His blessings on my lfe, both temporal and eternal. He pulled me from that miry clay, gently washed away the filth, revealed my true heart, set my feet upon a Rock, and fanned the fire to my spirit once again.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

E-mealz is da bomb!

For quite some time now, I have had a very strange and even unhealthy relationship with food. What I thought was a quest for healthy eating, has really become a spirit of fear, and a need for control. I "fed" myself as much information as I could find, about eating healthy, thinking that I could avoid my family or myself ever getting sick. Thanks to a new and dear friend (B to the K) I was able to recognize my choices were being made out of fear... not love. And in such a timely manner, this same friend introduced me to e-mealz.

E-mealz, is a menu planning system that allows you to, choose the grocery store that you shop at, puts to gether a weekly meal/recipe plan based on what is "on add", and creates a shopping list for you.

The time it would take to make up a menu plan, based on sale items, and create a shopping list, is reason enough to join up! As a homeschooling mom of four, my time is precious. I need to use it wisely. In less than five minutes, I had my week of meals planned out, and my shopping list printed and ready to go! Plus, the store I chose is only 12 minutes away. I had been driving about 40 minutes to three different specialty stores (all three in completely different directions) to find specific items, buying only organic, and fixing elaborate healthy meals with only the best ingredients. (Which btw.. my kids would NOT be excited about, or appreciate the time, effort, and pain that went into preparing them).

As I have mentioned before, we are not rich (material wise), and so I have been forced to look at new ways to save our family money. I have (against my husband's wishes) habitually over-spent at the grocery store for many years now. On average I spent around $300 a week on just groceries! This is no longer a feasible option for me. So, I took all my fears and need for control, and I laid them at Jesus' feet. God has really honored my desire to please my husband, be a good steward, and let go of fear, and has given me peace. Oh... and btw, I spent only $115.00 on groceries this week! The cost of e-mealz is only $5 a month, and I saved twice that in gas on my first trip.

My first trip to the grocery store was interesting. I had never been to this particular grocery store. And if I had, I would've made a bee line straight for the "health food section". (Which they did have, and which, on this particular occassion I bought absolutely nothing out of). The grocery list was organized into the different departments, so it was easy to follow. Plus I didn't stand there comparing prices and reading ingredients. The choices were made for me! It reminded me a little bit, like shopping off of a wedding or a baby shower registry. Anyways, the first trip to Kroger's was marked as a success. And when I got home, John was impressed with the bags and bags of food, and the small number on the receipt.

I fixed our first meal last night, and I will chalk it up as a definite success! My four year old, usually wanders around at dinnertime, coming back to the table only when threatened with death. Well, last night, he sat in his seat the entire time, shoved as much of this food into his mouth and said, as food came tumbling out, "mooooaaaaah" (translation "more"). ALL FOUR of my kids ate their dinner, and there was enough leftovers for lunch the next day. There are also enough ingredients from this meal left over to create breakfasts, lunches and snacks all week. This was the least stressful dinner we've had in awhile!

I can't believe how much time, money and stress I've already saved using this program. And I had a pretty organized system, (considering my system was so extremely involved). Check it out, for yourself. I posted a link on my website. If you decide to join when you click on the link, I actually get credit! (To all my west coast peeps, the only grocery store you will recognize is Wal-Mart).

Bon Apetit!

Friday, July 23, 2010

There is Joy in the "Mourning"

My sister and I have this long standing joke between us, that I think is pretty funny. It goes somthing like "Money can't buy you happiness, but it's alot more fun to cry in a Mercedes than a Pinto!" The strange thing is, I have looked back at my life and seen so much more happiness in the financially trying times, than the times of financial security.

Recently we have been going through a time of financial difficulty. And during my quiet time this morning, a lot of positive things came to mind. Things that probably would not have happened without the struggle. I cried out to God a lot more often than usual. I exercised and strengthened my faith and my hope in Him. I was able to put my trust in Him, and watch Him pull me through. I felt His presence. I was offered a P.E. job, that I am sure is His plan for me. And so I accepted, even though my qualifications are sketchy at best! I received an unexpected and perfectly timed gift of charity from a brother and sister in Christ. We cancelled our cable (HALLELUJAH!!!). And I experienced gratitude and thankfulness in what I would normally have taken for granted. For me without the sorrows in life, I really don't even experience the joy.

It's kind of like living in Arizona (stay with me), where everyday you wake up to perfection and sunshine, and you sort of get sick of it. For me, I need the sunshine to disappear for a time. I need the rains to come. The thunders to shake. The lightning to flash and confound! I need the seasons fall, winter, spring, summer, boredom, sadness, contentment, and joy. Dying, death, resurrection, new life.

I have heard it said that "it is easier to trust God in times of happiness and joy", and for me, this just isn't true. When the things of this world sustain me, I forget about God. And when the things of this world fail me, I turn to God to sustain me. I hope for a maturity of faith that is strong in both times of plenty and in times of want. Like Paul. Whenever I realize my faith is wavering or I am in a season of doubt. I know that times of trouble will come. It's a scary thing for me to pray for more faith. But I have to go back to the promise that this life is but a vapor. And that eternal life will outshine our pains and sorrows. I will never shed another tear. (Does that sound boring to anyone else?? That is a whole other post).

Oh that He will change the "joy in the mourning" to the "joy in the morning".

Monday, June 28, 2010

He will make your path straight

Today as I drove to Heritage Hills Baptist Church to sign up my kids for their homeschool co-op classes, I asked God one last time "How am I going to pay for this?" Things have been really tight lately, and we have been barely getting by. My dear husband has been working so so hard, but with a commission only sales job in this economy, making ends meet is a challenge. I have been wondering if maybe God had forgotten about us a little bit. However, what has come out of this less than ideal circumstance has been so much more profitable than if I had been able to just cut a check without a second thought.

It all started in AZ when I was done with a Zumba class that a man named Seth came up to me and asked me to become a certified Zumba instructor myself, and pick up a class to teach. I got certified November 7th or 8th, can't remember, doesn't matter, and I started teaching at the Community Center nearby and I built a clientele that I loved and who loved me back.

I shortly thereafter packed up w/ my family and moved to Georgia, landing in a little place called Conyers. By now, I was in love with teaching Zumba, and I was hoping to find a gym that would take me on. I had invested a lot into it as well, and I didn't want all the time, effort, and money to go to waste. As I lay in bed one night praying about it, God put into my mind that I should call the local dance studios to see if I could rent space, and start my own Zumba classes. This worked out fantastically, and I found a wonderful place where they have been so very generous and helpful in getting my classes off the ground. My classes have been getting bigger, and I have met some wonderful people that are taking my classes. Recently one of the ladies invited me to attend their church.

Up until this point, we had been attending a Calvary Chapel that was fine, but not where we would land for good. I had known for awhile that we were led to that church so that I could find my dear friend Rebekah. And so I was now ready to look for a church HOME. I hate church shopping, and I equally hate the critical spirit it fosters in me, so I was avoiding the whole situation, until thankfully Bekah, (from my class) nvited me to her church. I had been invited by numerous people to church, but didn't really feel the desire to make the move from where we were... until this moment.

So, in total Chaundra fashion I did a little internet research on Rockdale Community Church so I could analyze the situation. It turned out that our kids 5 and up have to sit with us in church. Feeling a little deflated, I decided not to mention it again to John and pray. If God wanted us to go there, then John would miraculously bring it up himself. If any of you know me at all, this was virtually an impossible task. I got a little sneaky by mentioning this exciting new church to the girls, hoping they would bring it up to daddy, but strangely enough, it went in one ear and out the other. So, I just bit my tongue, and waited to see what would happen. Normally, I would be talking to John about it every five minutes and making him listen to online sermons and badgering him constantly, so John took this silence as me being no longer interested in going to this church. I was so frustrated!! Come Sunday morning, I got up extra early (this church started an hour earlier) and I got myself and everyone ready. John became puzzled by this and said "Don't we have like two hours 'til we leave for church?" Now I was stuck. I wanted this to be his idea... But I could stand it no longer! "Well.... we were invited to that other church..." And just like that he was totally on board.

The worship was inspired and simple, the sermon was MEATY!!! Almost TOO meaty! It lasted for over an hour! (The girls got pretty squirmy in their seats). However there was one very special moment. Before the sermon started, the church prays together corporately from their seat. Anyone that has a praise or a request just speaks up. Blaze nudges me and whispers to me "I want to pray" At first I almost say "No!" But thankfully I just nod my head like, if you want to. So as soon as the person praying finishes she starts praying. She prays for people's anger, their lost jobs, that the people in this place will know God. Her words are strong and clear and poetic. She speaks with such urgency and compassion. It is so real. I stifle a sob as best as I can. I am moved so deeply I am not even sure what I am feeling. How did this little girl become so brave and bold for Christ. I am sure of one thing, she is amazing... in spite of me... she is amazing. The whole experience here has been so wonderful, I am feeling like this is the place for our family. I am definitely excited to go back.

So, fast forward to today where I am wondering about finances. I had decided the day before that I was going to just move forward with my plan to sign the girls up for the co-op and trust that God will provide, or I will ask for a little more time to pay the fee. I was hoping that when I showed up for my Zumba class that morning, that I would have a bunch of new people, or returning people that were buying a new bundle of classes. When that didn't happen, I just trusted that there would be another way. But I still thought that "other way" would be something like a post dated check.

I arrive at the church, and the girls watch a super cool collie dog trick/stunt show while I acquaint myself with the facilitator Tracee. She lets me know that there is something she "needs to talk to me about". This always raises a red flag with me, because I am usually in some kind of trouble. But as Tracee starts talking I start becoming aware that God is answering my prayer... and I am now a PE teacher for the co-op, which entitles me to FREE tuition!! My heart is so overwhelmed with humility and gratitude. I am laughing from relief, surprise, and excitement. Never in a million years would I have volunteered for this position. But God had placed me on Tracee's heart, and she was hoping that I would consider it! Consider it? Where's my whistle??

After the initial excitement died down I managed to fill out my registration form and make some conversation with the lady standing next to me. Somehow the conversation flows to "what church do you go to" and I sort of gush a little about this new church that I tried out the day before. She asks me what church and when I tell her, a huge grin spreads across her face, that is where SHE goes to church. Her daughter and mine get on quite well, and she informs me that a really nice homeschooling family lives nearby us. As a matter of fact, the man that spoke on the Sunday is the husband/father of this family. And they also have a daughter near Blaze's age. I am almost unable to contain the deep gratitude I am feeling towards God. He comes through. He always does. And it's not always in ways that you expect... or even want Him to. But He comes through. He hadn't forgotten me after all...

As I drove away, I thought about the sermon I had heard on Sunday.. or rather a nugget of the sermon I had heard. God had just put the Egyptian army in the Red Sea. He had exercised His power over water molecules and had parted that vast body of water to let the Children of Israel through, and then had closed it back up again to swallow their enemies. Not long later the Israelites begin to doubt their ability to take the promised land as their own. The cities are fortified and the people are giant after all. What could God do to help them now? It all seems so silly to me, but I know I am like that too. Am I going to be like that now? Am I going to think that God miraculously worked out the details to bring me to this place and then He will just abandon me? Maybe, I will toy with that idea. I am after all human, and not even all that fancy and mature as far as humans go. But in this moment I am at peace. And since this morning, I have been able to think on the magnitude of this commitment that I have made. (PE TEACHER??) I need to continue to stand on His promises. God will equip me to do this work that he has called me to do! He will lead me to the right places, people, thoughts and websites. So.. again... where's my whistle??